Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Living Images book launch - comment on phrenology


The authors of “Living images – Egyptian funerary portraits in the Petrie Museum” each spoke, giving context to the writing of the book and to the portraits themselves. The portraits were discovered while Flinders Petrie was looking for something else entirely. But he found a great cache of sarcophagi, each painted with their contents.

The sarcophagi in question are from the period when Egypt was governed by Romans (as seen in the TV show Rome). Which is also, of course, the Dr’s period and she loves the details in the faces. The Roman ex-pats couldn’t afford the gold opulence that was once lavished on mummified pharaohs, so a portrait was the next best thing. These portraits, and the grave goods found with them, give all kinds of clues about the Roman middle-classes – their clothes, jewellery, diets and lives.

Petrie’s interest, though, was in their use for phrenology. His notebooks detail how he eagerly reaped the shrunken heads of the mummies – as well as the portraits of them alive. Skull A, says his notes, goes with Portrait A.

See the above page for more.

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