How do we know who ancient statues are supposed to be?


When an ancient statue or sculpture is discovered with no writing, how do they always seem to assign it to someone? Like it’ll just be some random statue and they’re like oh that’s such and such 3rd century Roman nobleman yada yada. Like how do they know? I’ve seen the same with discovered tombs.

In: 36

If there aren’t inscriptions or the like, we can use context to figure it out. For instance, if we have 20 statues of a guy with a big hat, spear, and grapes which say “Bob of Grapehome,” and find a similar statue without an inscription we can get reasonably assume it is a statue of Bob.

We can date things through art styles, coinage, and other sorts of items. We can then go through personal things to figure out who was buried there. For instance, let us say there is some Roman named Gaius Pescatus who we know lived in the 3rd century BC known for his fishing empire and had a family crest of a 7 sailed ship, we can use coins left in the tomb to date it to the 3rd century BC, and notice there’s a bunch of 7 sailed ships in mosaic or painted on pots, we can reasonably assume it is the tomb of Gaius Pescatus, even without an explicit description as such.

As an aside, ancient Romans weren’t very big on tombs. Space was at a premium and burial wasn’t popular in the city.They liked big monuments in prominent areas such as along the main roads. Those definitely had descriptions on them. No point in having a monument if you don’t describe who it is a monument to.

There is a bit of a selection bias there, statues of unknown characters are generally not displayed because they are not interesting. They sit somewhere in a warehouse with mountains of other uncategorized stuff that is old enough that nobody wants to throw it away, but not interesting enough to make it to museum display.

One good example would be Caesars Tusculum bust. We have a pretty good idea of what Caesar looked like due to the coins struck with his likeness. The main reason the Tusculum bust is so interesting is that Caesar was said to have a birth deformity causing premature ossification of the sutures in his skull which causes the elongation on his left side of his head. This is clearly shown in the Tusculum bust. Also we have a pretty good idea that the Tusculum bust was made during or shortly after his death. The Romans during this time tended to go for a much more realistic depiction of the person rather than the exaggerated and embellished features you see later during the Roman Empire era (for example the bust of Constantine).

how is this question allowed? surely it breaks Rule 2?