Providing for the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian works from Eton College

Technical Research for the Exhibition

By Sanchita Balachandran

Our first class meeting

One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of having nearly daily access to a museum collection of ancient art–and in this case the spectacular Eton Collection–is the opportunity to conduct technical research on objects that have never been studied in this way. The Archaeological Museum now has a suite of non-destructive imaging and analytical tools that allow previously unknown insights into the fabrication and decoration techniques of ancient objects, giving us a clearer sense of the specific material choices that ancient craftspeople made to produce objects that best suited the aesthetic, ritual, functional, and cultural purposes desired.

The objects in the exhibition “Providing for the Afterlife” were all studied by undergraduate and graduate students at Johns Hopkins University in my 2017 fall course “Examining Archaeological Objects.” Over a short thirteen weeks, the students became familiar with techniques including stereomicroscope and x-radiography, multi-band imaging, x-ray fluorescence, and reflectance transformation imaging. In combination, these techniques provided students with a vast dataset requiring them to combine new material evidence with published literatures that spanned Egyptology, archaeology, materials science, and art conservation. That the students were able to so deftly traverse these cross-disciplinary boundaries and add otherwise unknown knowledge to our study of the ancient objects on view in this exhibition is testament to the importance of inter-disciplinary work, the value of working in a hands-on way with ancient collections, and the tenacity and intelligence of our students who rose to the challenge.

Many thanks to the students
in the 2017 course:

Ella Cammarato
Archaeology major, Class of 2019

Melanie Capruso
History major, Class of 2018

Sean Galvin
History major, Class of 2018

Monica Herrera
Neuroscience major, Class of 2018

Linda Horn
Writing Seminars major, Class of 2018

Skylar Hurst
Classics major, Class of 2020

Harrison Ihrig
Public Health major, Class of 2020

Debbie Kim
Public Health major, Class of 2021

Kevin Li
Materials Science and Engineering major, Class of 2018

Morgan Moroney
Egyptology graduate student, Near Eastern Studies

Roshan Plamthottam
Materials Science and Engineering major, Class of 2018

Jordan Poston
Earth and Planetary Sciences, Class of 2019

Anna Schwarz
Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2018

Evan Smith
Materials Science and Engineering, Class of 2018