For the first time in fifty years, archaeologists have discovered Fayum mummy portraits at an ancient Egyptian site.
Archaeologists have discovered ancient mummies that were interred with exquisite, lifelike portraits of the deceased. The mummies were interred in a cemetery at the ancient Egyptian city of Philadelphia, according to a Dec. 1 release from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
The city of Philadelphia, which is presently situated about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Cairo in the Fayoum region of Egypt, was founded during the Ptolemaic period (304 B.C. to 30 B.C. ), when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of pharaohs descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Philadelphia, the Greek name for the city of brotherly love, survived the overthrow of the monarchy and the Roman conquest of Egypt.
Basem Gehad, director of the ancient Philadelphia necropolis excavation expedition, reported that during the dig at the necropolis of the ancient site, two whole mummy portraits, as well as semi-complete and fragmented pictures, were found.
According to Gehad, those who were interred in such a manner in Philadelphia were unquestionably upper-middle class or elite since they could afford to give their family such expensive portraits of the deceased. Gehad asserts that the painters of the portraits were most likely from Alexandria, a city in Egypt on the Mediterranean coast.
Archaeologists hardly often come across mummy portraits. Before the new discoveries, the last mummy portraits were uncovered during archaeological investigations in the 1880s. Grave robbers scavenged historic cemeteries, notably Philadelphia’s, in the 19th century for their mummy portraits. Archaeologists did examine a few of the Philadelphia burials, though.
Roman mummy pictures were stolen from the cemetery in the 1880s, according to Susan Walker, an honorary curator at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford. The majority of these portraits were sold to the Viennese merchant and collector Theodor Graf. As a result of his categorization of the portraits and the organization of displays of them around the world, they are now dispersed in museum and private collections, particularly in America and Europe.
Walker, who was not involved in the excavations, told Live Science that the new specimens were being examined using cutting-edge scientific methods and that they might shed more light on Egyptian mummy images. The most recent excavations, according to Walker, will surely provide us a better knowledge of the cemetery where the stolen photographs originated.
In addition to the mummy pictures, archaeologists also found the ruins of a building where mummies were interred and a statue of the Egyptian-Greek goddess of love, Isis-Aphrodite. They also came upon papyrus remnants that included Egyptian cursive writing as well as Greek and demotic inscriptions. The papyri contain details on the social, economic, and religious conditions of the local populace, the ministry claimed in a statement.
The excavation of the cemetery and analysis of the discoveries are ongoing processes.
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