Roman Egyptian Mummy Portraits

By
Sanchita Balachandran
Sanchita Balachandran is the Curator/Conservator of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum and Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. She teaches courses related to the identification and analysis of ancient manufacturing techniques of objects, as well as the history, ethics and practice of museum conservation.
Portrait of a Young Man, 120-170 CE, ECM 2150

Portrait of a Young Man, 120-160 CE, ECM 2150

In the Fall of 2015, a group of freshmen at Johns Hopkins will embark on the technical study and analyses of two ancient Roman Egyptian mummy portraits, currently on loan to the Archaeological Museum from the Eton College Myers Collection in Windsor, England.  The course, “Freshman Seminar: Technical Research on Archaeological Objects in the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum” is taught by the museum’s curator/conservator Sanchita Balachandran, and will involve collaborators from the fields of archaeology, materials science, conservation and forensics. The course is envisioned as a way to give first year students a chance to raise research questions that they will then develop approaches to answer in collaboration with specialists across disciplines.

The course’s primary goal is to generate and collect technical data on the original manufacturing techniques of these ancient paintings for contribution to the “Ancient Panel Paintings: Examination, Analysis and Research” (APPEAR) Project.  The APPEAR Project is an international database comprising numerous museum institutions and scholars that is currently managed by the J. Paul Getty Museum.  But the course will also ask larger questions about how an interdisciplinary study of two mummy portraits dated to the 2nd century CE allows us to approach the ancient contexts in which these objects were used and made.  Therefore, throughout the course, we will 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.

Portrait of a Man, 140-170 CE, ECM 2149

Portrait of a Man, 140-170 CE, ECM 2149

As part of the course, students will be blogging on this site on a weekly basis.  They will also be  creating links to articles, videos and museum collections, and musing about their experiences on the class’ Tumblr page:

http://ancientegyptianfaces.tumblr.com

Follow along and interact with the class as we begin our study of Roman Egyptian mummy portraits!