You truly never know what you’re going to find in the Wissahickon! As you walk upstream from the parking lot at Ten Box toward the Blue Stone Bridge, at a little past half the distance look for the small remnant of a Roman Sarcophagus nestled against the rising hillside. It is easy to miss.
In the summer of 2000 Donald White of the University of Pennsylvania came across the remnants of a Roman sarcophagus. While he was walking his dogs, their sniffing exploration along the side of lower forbidden drive called his attention to what looked like an abandoned refrigerator. On closer inspection he found the carved marble structure.
Fairmount Park’s Historic Preservation officer produced the old photo and information. The location is known as McFarland Springs. It supplied water to the sarcophagus which was given to the park as a watering trough for horses. There is no record of the donor or why this valuable antique was placed at this location. The sarcophagus, carved from white marble is 69” long, 26 “ deep and estimated to have been 28” high. Its back and ends were left plain indicating the sarcophagus was designed to be set in a niche or against a wall. The center had a bust of a woman with a hair style popular in Roman art of the late 2nd or third centuries. An oval sea shell hinged at the bottom may accompany a rolled up papyrus scroll.
Check out this Google Map to explore this and other unique historical points of interest, and become acquainted with the many trailheads in Wissahickon Valley Park!
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You probably don’t need us to tell you how special Wissahickon Valley Park is. It’s 1800 acres provides habitat to wildlife, refuge & recreation to over a million visitors per year, and protects the drinking water for one third of Philadelphians. The park can’t take care of itself, however. It needs responsible park users and stewards to keep this special place clean and sustainable for generations to come.