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A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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New Insights into Egyptian Mummy Portraits

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Egyptian Mummy Portrait EVANSTON, ILLINOIS—A Northwestern University team led by archaeological scientist Marc Walton has carried out a cutting-edge study of 15 Romano-Egyptian mummy portraits from the site of Tebtunis in Egypt. Using imaging technologies and pigment analysis, the group made a number of discoveries, including the fact that three of the portraits probably came from the same workshop and were possibly done by the same artist. They were also able to pinpoint the sources for the pigments used in the portraits. “Our materials analysis provides a fresh and rich archaeological context for the Tebtunis portraits, reflecting the international perspective of these ancient Egyptians,” Walton said in a Northwestern University press release. “For example, we found that the iron-earth pigments most likely came from Keos in Greece, the red lead from Spain, and the wood substrate on which the portraits are painted came from central Europe. We also know the painters used Egyptian blue in an unusual way to broaden their spectrum of hues.” To read more about the team’s work with Egyptian blue, go to “Hidden Blues.” 

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