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Ancient Art

Tile with Female Face

ca. A.D. 245

Clay with layer of painted plaster

37.7 × 51.5 × 10.2 cm (14 13/16 × 20 1/4 × 4 in.)
Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos
Probably about 450 tiles showing female heads, land and sea animals, fantastic beasts, Evil Eyes, vegetation, and inscriptions once covered the Synagogue ceiling, demarcating the sacred space with an otherworldly “sky.” This example (one of 234 preserved tiles) depicts a common type, the female face, which may represent the vegetative powers of nature. The figure’s mass of red hair sprouts leaves and flowers. Painted ceiling tiles were also used in private houses at Dura-Europos.
Excavated in Dura-Europos, Syria
On view
Syrian, Dura-Europos
Roman (3rd century A.D.)

Excavated by the Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos (block L7, Synagogue), present-day Syria, 1928–37; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Lisa R. Brody and Gail Hoffman, eds., Dura-Europos: Crossroads of Antiquity (Boston: McMullen Museum of Art, 2011), 339, no. 30, pl. 30.

Jennifer Chi and Sebastian Heath, eds., Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos, exh. cat. (New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 2011), 50, no. 33, fig. 2–19.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.