Gravestone from the Coptic Period of Egypt, 5th century AD, limestone, Coptic Museum, Cairo
A work of art with a highly functional role as it is a gravestone placed above the tomb of the deceased. It represents a woman raising her hands in prayer, a traditional pose for Coptic gravestones. The work combines many different artistic traditions that have existed in Ancient Egypt through the course of its long history. Gravestones were common in Ancient Greece; the long mantle the woman wears is Roman, while the architectural structure under which she is placed also reminds of a classical temple.
The representation of the deceased in his/her grave has a very long tradition in Egypt coming from the Dynastic period and connected with the belief that an image of the person must survive in order for his/her soul to live eternally. At the same time the lamps above the woman's hands are parts of the Christian tradition, the religion the Egyptian Copts adopted in the first century AD.