This young Roman woman dating from the 3rd century was buried along with perfume bottles, a makeup palette and a silver hand mirror.

A sarcophagus from the ancient Roman era has been discovered, containing remnants of a young woman and a complete makeup set. The stone chest was found when the canal system is being renovated in Zülpich in western Germany.

The 4,5 heavy sarcophagus contained the remains of a young Roman woman who was buried along with perfume bottles, a makeup palette, and a silver hand mirror.

Jürgen Vogel/LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn
This silver hand mirror was found along with the stone coffin.

The Landesmuseum in Bonn said Monday that the massive stone coffin contained an unusual wealth of beauty products, jet jewelry, pins and a folding knife with a handle in the shape of a Hercules figure.

“The focus of the objects is clearly related to jewelry and cosmetics,”

– Susanne Willer of the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn told Der Spiegel, a German newspaper.

The discovery was made in Zülpich, known in Roman times as Tolbiacum, along an ancient Roman road between Cologne and Trier in what is now modern-day western Germany.

The stone coffin measures 2.3 meters by 1.1 meters (7.5 feet by 3.6 feet) and is known to date back to the third century CE. This kind of sarcophagus is exceptionally rare. Burials as extravagant as this were only reserved for the wealthy Roman elites in northern provinces. This woman was thought to be between 25 and 30 years old.

Jürgen Vogel/LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn
Glass perfume bottles (left) and a folding knife with handle in the form of the demigod Hercules (right).

Lifting the sarcophagus out of its resting place was no small feat, it required massive construction equipment to move the stone coffin with the lid alone weighing over 2 tons. It then took researchers over a week to document the whole haul.

This excavation was carried out last year, however, but only publicly released this week as they were hoping to stumble across even more graves in the vicinity.

That such a finding is made in Western Germany is not particulary strange. The Roman town of Tolbiacum was at a crossroads of various major routes and was one of the northernmost cities in the Roman Empire.


LVR-Museum Bonn präsentiert 1700 Jahre alten Sarkophag