Progress of the work: November 2005
During the period when Egypt was part of the Roman empire, the practice of mummification continued, but with some modifications. X-rays and CT scans show that the internal organs were not removed from bodies before they were dried out at this time. Another change was the practice of including a portrait painted on a wooden panel over the face of Roman mummies during the 3rd century AD.
These portrait panels are often painted on to very thin panels and are very fragile. Lucy Wrapson (a conservation intern at the Hamilton Kerr Institute) has started a project to examine and treat the mummy portraits in the Fitzwilliam collection. The museum has four examples: a bearded man, a woman, a child called Didyme and another young man. This last portrait (left) is especially exciting because it is still part of the mummy of its owner.
Lucy has started by documenting and surveying the condition of the paintings. This has involved photographing and x-raying them, as well as research into their physical history. An x-ray of one of the portraits is shown on the right.
Once this exploratory phase of the work is over, several of the portraits will be taken to the Hamilton Kerr Institute for conservation treatment. As well as undertaking conservation work on the paintings over the coming months, Lucy will be researching the materials and techniques used to make the portraits.
This month, our conservation intern Nichole Doub is working on the Middle Kingdom coffin of a warrior called Userhet. This coffin was discovered at Beni Hassan by John Garstang. It was placed inside a rectangular box-coffin (which is now in Liverpool University's department of archaeology).
Before doing anything else, Nichole examines the coffin thoroughly using X-radiography and ultraviolet light. This proves to be very interesting as it showed that large areas of the coffin had been restored in the past, and it seems that it even includes an ancient Egyptian attempt at conservation!
More information about the conservation of this coffin can be found on a separate page ( Conserving the coffin of Userhet).
In the galleries, the new cases are being installed by Goppion. They have been working for several weeks already, beginning in the Gayer-Anderson Gallery (which is from now on to be known as Gallery 20). Here the cases are less deep than those that will be next door in Gallery 19 (the old Greg Gallery), and they are placed between the 'pillars'. Installing the cases will probably take several weeks, as the Gallery 19 cases include some very large and complicated island cases, which need to be positioned absolutely accurately so that their doors will open fully to allow objects to be installed safely.
Once the cases are finally in place, we will have to start testing them to make sure the environment inside is properly controlled. Only once we are sure they are satisfactory can we begin the process of getting the objects actually into their new homes.Image["New case being installed in the Gayer-Anderson Gallery"]
Image["New case waiting to be installed"]
(picture left) A new case waiting to be installed in the galleries.