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Egyptian-style High Reliefs

One of the most interesting aspects concerning the necropolis of Sant'Antioco is the discovery of two reliefs depicting a character in Egyptian style, one discovered during excavations carried out in 1968 and the other in 2002: the first was detached from the partition on which it had been carved and taken to Cagliari where it was then restored and exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum. Today it is no longer visible and is stored in the museum’s warehouses. The second sculpture is still where it was discovered, on the central pillar of the tomb (fig. 2) in the centre of the burial chamber of tomb n. 7 (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Plan of the burial chamber of tomb n. 7 (from BERNARDINI 2010, table I, 1)
Fig. 2 - The Egyptian-style high relief of tomb n. 7 (from BERNARDINI 2010, table I, 2).

The sculpture, positioned frontally, represents a life-size bearded man with his left arm folded across his chest and the right one stretched along his side. He is wearing the klaft, namely the Egyptian headdress typical of the Pharaohs, and a skirt; it is an Egyptian-influenced image, rather imitated and quite common in the Punic world. The relief is characterised by the extraordinarily well-preserved colour and by the particular accuracy of the workmanship. The colours which define the details of the figure are red and black. The black paint was used for the klaft (fig. 3) and also for the beard curled at the end and for his moustache, the coloured jar under his left wrist, perhaps an ointment-holder, is also painted in black. The hair, ears, lips and nipples of the character are coloured in red as are the short lines that encircle the upper arms and wrists, probably bracelets, his short skirt and the scroll held in the fist of his right hand.

Fig. 3 - Funerary mask of Tutankhamun: the typical Pharaonic headdress with klaft is clear (from

This figure, which rests on an uneven rectangular base, could perhaps recall the Phoenician deity Baal Addir (or Baal Hammon), the lord of the underworld and fertility, but we also cannot rule out that it may be a symbolic image of the deceased himself, a kind of portrait. The scroll in the character’s hand and the stool on which he rests may allude to the particular authority and wealth of the deceased, which can also be recognised by the richness of the grave reserved for him. In the High Relief found in 1968 (fig. 4), some scholars believed they recognised the image of a genie or an underground demon committed to protecting the dead on their journey to the afterlife.

Fig. 4 - The restored high relief found in Sant'Antioco in 1968 (from TRONCHETTI 1989, p. 10, fig. 3).



  • P. BARTOLONI, Il museo archeologico comunale “F. Barreca” di Sant’Antioco, Sassari 2007.
  • P. BERNARDINI, Recenti scoperte nella necropoli punica di Sulcis = RSF, vol. XXXIII, Roma 2005, pp. 63-80.
  • P. BERNARDINI, Memorie d’Egitto. Un sepolcro punico da Sulky, in G. M. della Fina (a cura di), Etruschi, Greci, Fenici e Cartaginesi nel Mediterraneo Centrale. Atti del XIV Congresso Internazionale di studi sulla storia e l’archeologia dell’Etruria, (Annali della fondazione per il Museo “Claudio Faina”, XIV), Orvieto 2007, pp.137-60.
  • P. BERNARDINI, Aspetti dell’artigianato funerario punico di Sulky. Nuove evidenze, in M. Milanese, P. Ruggeri, C. Vismara (a cura di), Atti del XVIII Convegno Africa Romana (Olbia, 11-14 dicembre 2008), Roma 2010, pp. 1257-1270.
  • S. MOSCATI, L’arte dei Fenici, Milano 1990.
  • C. TRONCHETTI, S. Antioco, Sassari 1989.
  • RSF = Rivista di Studi Fenici, Roma, 1973 e ss.