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Collezione Napoli /National Archaeological Museum of Naples
Tomb of the Dancing Women

In 1833, in Ruvo, a town in Puglia, Italy, a semi-chamber tomb measuring three meters in length was discovered. Seven lavishly decorated slabs, covering the tomb of an Apulian aristocrat, bear witness to the philosophical and religious culture of the time when Rhyps, the Greek name for Ruvo, merged Hellenic influences with those of the Italic peoples.

Despite its brief stay in Ruvo, the slab was donated to the King of Naples and can now be admired at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. This slab is known as the “Dancers’ slab” due to the depiction of nine female figures dancing with their arms crossed.

In ancient Greek sources, this type of female dance is called stayrotos, which literally means “dance of crossed arms” in Greek. The nine women wear long polychrome mantles that seem to undulate with their movements, and their arms are uncovered to allow them to hold hands and dance together, forming a chain around the deceased’s body. This representation on a tomb clearly indicates its funerary purpose, celebrating the new life of the departed individual.

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