Detail of the central panel of a columnar sarcophagus from Ostia.
This is one example of a large number of Roman sarcophagi on which the heads of the figures (on chest and lid) are not finished. The reasons for this lack of finish have been greatly debated and various explanations proposed. One possibility is that this sarcophagus was purchased in this condition with the portraits left for finishing but the buyer could not afford to have them finished or had no desire to finish them. Another possibility is that they were meant to be finished once the individuals buried in the sarcophagus had died but this never ended up happening. Finally it has been proposed that this lack of finish was deliberate and represented contemporary superstitions.