The three important groups of people involved with production of a cinerary urn are the deceased person for whom the urn was made, the patron or purchaser (if different from the deceased), and the maker of the urn (whether identified as a sculptor or stoneworker).

— The Deceased —
Inscriptions identify the deceased in formulas as the recipient/dedicatee of the urn after their spirits are invoked by the phrase Dis Manibus (abbreviated DM for spirits of the dead). Sometimes the deceased is the same person as the patron/purchaser of the urn.

— The Patron/Purchaser —

Patrons/purchasers of all kinds commissioned the production of marble cinerary urns. By examining urns categorized according to the different types of people who commissioned them, interesting aspects about their production and display stand out.

The inscription will claim that the dedicatee bought the urn for himself or herself. The men and women who worked as servants and slaves in the imperial households also appear in the inscriptions for numerous cineraria, sometimes solely by status/title (libertis) and sometimes also by name.

Read about imperial freedmen and their urns >>

Many cinerary urns indicate in their inscriptions that women had urns made for their husbands, children, or their servants. Conversely, certain urns indicate urns were made for wives. While the corpus does not exclude men, women seem to outnumber them in inscriptions on urns. This notion, however, may be contrasted with the names of men listed in inscriptions from columbaria tombs and other funerary tablets detached from urns.

Read about urns commissioned by women >>

With the different information provided about patrons and their social status, it is possible to evaluate the type and quality of sculpted work in relation to the makers of the urns. Close examination of patterns in the tooling of the marble surfaces provides direct information about the sculptors or stoneworkers making urns and their ways of working.

— The Sculptors —

Read about sculptors and stone-workers >>