Also the upper internal register, with a chain of festoons hanging from ox skulls (bucrania
), spaced by paterae, or ritual shallow bowls, seems to recall the ornamentation placed on the wooden fence, that was probably decorated with garlands kept in place by the vittae, or sacred bands, and with animal skulls.
The interior decoration of the precinct walls would thus be a sort of visual reference to the forms of an archaic ritual, according to the policy of religious restoration pursued by Augustus; at the same time the symbolic value of the ornamental element is strongly delineated: above all in the rhythmical sequence of the festoons—extraordinarily rich with ears of wheat, berries and of all seasons’ fruit, both cultivated (barley, grapes, olives, figs, apples, pears, cherries and walnuts) and wild (pine cones, oak, laurel, poppies and ivy) and of the ox skulls, just bare bones and empty eye-sockets, an evident reference to the natural cycle of death and rebirth.
© Photo, text: O. Rossini. Ara Pacis. Rome, Electa, 2007, p. 22, 27.