Roman Sarcophagus from the Sea

Here’s one that’s been in my box for a while, and there haven’t been any followups, alas … from Hurriyet:

A sarcophagus covered with figures depicting Eros and Medusa and believed to date from the Roman period has been found in the sea near the location of the ancient city of Justinianopolis, in the southern province of Antalya’s Alanya district.

The sarcophagus was retrieved from the water after a six-hour effort and has been delivered to the Alanya Museum Directorate.

Diving school trainer Hakan Güleç spotted an object covered with sand and rocks while diving 20 days ago. When trying to move the object, he saw the figures on it and photographed them. He showed the photos to Alanya Museum officials, and after examining them, they decided to exhibit it. The sarcophagus is estimated to date from the second or third century A.D.

Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum Director Yaşar Yıldız and archaeologists cleared sand and debris from the sarcophagus for six hours, and it was lifted out of the water with the help of a crane. Tourists took photos of the sarcophagus while the work was going on.

“The Alanya Museum has gained a new piece of art. The figures on it show that it dates from the Roman period,” Yıldız said.

The original article has a photo-from-a-distance which really isn’t useful for establishing what scene is depicted on it, although you can see one (or two?) Medusas. In the coverage for the Art Newspaper, Yildiz is quoted as speculating it was made up the coast at Aphrodisias.

What I’d like to have seen is some further speculation as to how it got where it did. Even with six hours of cleaning, it seems awfully clean for something made of marble that has supposedly been in the sea for a couple of thousand years, no? Is there a shipwreck around it? Were other things found in association with it? Or (as I note that someone commenting on the Art Newspaper’s coverage has also suggested) is this probably something that was being smuggled somewhere and dumped overboard for whatever reasons?

Nice of them to mention Justinianopolis, though …