Obj. ID: 1680
Ancient Jewish Art The Shell sarcophagus from Beth She`arim
To the main object: Beth She'arim
"זה ארונו ש)לרבי( גמליאל בנו שלרבי אליעזר )שמת( בן שבע עשרה שנה זכר צדיק לברכה"
The sarcophagus has a rectangular body and a high gabled lid with four decorated acroteria in the corners, and a conch in the center of each of the long sides of the lid.
The front side is decorated with a rectangular panel, surrounded by geometric and floral designe. within are different motives as: aediculae, animals, rosette; in the center is a Hebrew inscription.
On right narrow side of the sarcophagus is a panel, borded with a decorative frame. In the center of the panel are two lions, surrounded by fish and birds.
The left narrow side depicts two pairs of birds.
The front of the sarcophagus is decorated with two registers (one above the other), which cover about two-thirds of the upper front side area. The upper register protrudes slightly from the sarcophagus and is surrounded on three sides (exept for the buttom), by a moulded frame. It depicts two aediculae with a conch. One aedicula is placed on the right end and the other one near the left end. In the right aedicula is a lion in profile with an uplifted tail. In the left aedicula is an eagle with long legs and spreaded wings. Along the upper part of the register and between the aedicula runs a frieze, which contains various motives; From the right to the left: two heraldic lions flanking a frontal bull's head; two heraldic birds pecking grapes, below the left bird is a small fish facing the left; interlacing circles; and an egg pattern. (no.?) Below the frieze is a band of Bead and reel pattern, which also extends above the pediment of the aediculae. On the left side of the right aedicula is a wreath enclosing a geometric six-petals rosette, and to the right of the left aedicula is an uncompleted wreath with a Hercules knot. Between the two aediculae is a Hebrew inscription that was painted in red color, and reads as follow: "This is the sarcophagus of (Rabbi) Gamliel the son of Rabbi Eliezer (who died) at the age of seven- -teen years. (May) the memory of the just be blessed." The lower register is decorated with two rows of interlaced ovals. On both sides of the registers is a band of vine scrolls. The right one is composed of scallops, containing alternately clusters and leafs. The left vine band, consists of a row of an arc-like pattern filled with grapes. On the right narrow side of the sarcophagus - is a rectangular panel, depicting a lion and lioness facing each other and flanking a small gazelle(?) which is looking back. Above them are four fish and a fifth behind the lion to the right. In the upper left corner, three birds are crammed into a tangle of branches, and in the opposite corner are two birds on a branch. The panel is framed by two bands: the inner one contains interlaced circles on the left and bottom sides; and the outer band is decorated on the upper and left sides, and contains a vine scroll with grape clusters raising from a vase, on the bottum left corner. Below the rectangular panel, the stone was trimmed so that a flat rectangle was formed with two diagonal ridges at the sides.
The left narrow side has a relief of a framed square tablet on the upper side. The square contains two pairs of birds one above the other. The birds are in profile and facing each other. The lower pair of birds has a crest on their heads.
On the edges of the lid is a row of Bead and reel pattern. The acroteria were incised with vertical volutes. The conch on the center of the lid is surrounded by a row of bead and reel.