Multi-Analytical Characterization and Radiocarbon Dating of a Roman Egyptian Mummy Portrait

Year: 2021

Authors: Dal Fovo A., Fedi M., Federico G., Liccioli L., Barone S., Fontana R.

Autors Affiliation: CNR, Natl Inst Opt, Largo E Fermi 6, I-50125 Florence, Italy; Natl Inst Nucl Phys, Via Bruno Rossi 1, I-50019 Florence, Italy; Opificio Pietre Dure, Vle Filippo Strozzi 1, I-50129 Florence, Italy

Abstract: Fayum mummy portraits, painted around 2000 years ago, represent a fascinating fusion of Egyptian and Graeco-Roman funerary and artistic traditions. Examination of these artworks may provide insight into the Roman Empire’s trade and economic and social structure during one of its most crucial yet still hazy times of transition. The lack of proper archaeological documentation of the numerous excavated portraits currently prevents their chronological dating, be it absolute or relative. So far, their production period has been defined essentially on the basis of the relevant differences in their pictorial style. Our study introduces the use of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) to assess the age of a fragment of an encaustic painting belonging to the corpus of the Fayum portraits. The unexpected age resulting from C-14 analysis suggests the need to reconsider previous assumptions regarding the period of production of the Fayum corpus. Furthermore, our multi-analytical, non-invasive approach yields further details regarding the fragment’s pictorial technique and constituting materials, based on spectral and morphological analysis and cross-sectional examination.

Journal/Review: MOLECULES

Volume: 26 (17)      Pages from: 5368-1  to: 5268-15

More Information: This research was funded by Regione Toscana (POR FSE 2014-2020, “Giovanisi”, Intervention Program “CNR4C”, CUP B15J19001040004).
KeyWords: Fayum mummy portraits; radiocarbon dating; encaustic paint; multispectral reflectography;
microprofilometry; fibre-optics reflectance spectroscopy; optical coherence tomography
DOI: 10.3390/molecules26175268

Citations: 2
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