Technical Research: Roman Egyptian Mummy Portraits

Preparing wood panels with animal glue and calcium sulfate grounds to mimic the painting techniques used by Roman Egyptian mummy portrait painters.

Preparing wood panels with animal glue and calcium sulfate grounds to mimic the painting techniques used by Roman Egyptian mummy portrait painters.

How do we investigate the material remnants of the ancient past? What kinds of questions should we be asking about ancient objects? What kinds of evidence should we consider, and how to we uncover this evidence? Which specialists do we consult? And how can our research contribute to a larger body of literature and research on a specific topic?  We will explore these questions by conducting technical research on two Roman Egyptian mummy portraits currently on loan from the Eton College Myers Collection in Windsor, England, to the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum.

The focus of this Fall 2015 seminar is to engage in an interdisciplinary study of two mummy portraits dated to the 2nd century CE, and to explore numerous technical approaches by which we might learn more about the ancient contexts and people who produced these works.  Throughout the course, we consider different technologies that help us analyze the material aspects of these paintings, but we will continually contextualize these technical findings against the archaeological, historical and socio-cultural evidence for Egypt in this time period.  We will be contributing our technical findings to the “Ancient Panel Paintings: Examination, Analysis and Research” (APPEAR) Project, an international database comprising numerous museum institutions and scholars that is currently managed by the J. Paul Getty Museum.  We will also be making our findings accessible to a broad public through the Archaeological Museum’s website and our class Tumblr page.

The full syllabus can be downloaded here. Information on the student-generated blog for this course can be found here.