Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: Herakleides

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Jane Draycott)

Lorelei H. Corcoran, Marie Svoboda, Herakleides: A Portrait Mummy from Roman Egypt. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011.

Herakleides: a Portrait Mummy from Roman Egypt not only provides the results of a series of scientific analyses, but also those of a comprehensive classical, Egyptological and art historical, study undertaken on the Herakleides portrait mummy. Consequently, it serves as an extremely informative and useful case study with regard to funerary practice in Egypt during the Roman period.

The Herakleides portrait mummy was first acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1991, and was subject to a full study by the Museum’s Antiquities Conservation Department in 2003, before finally being exhibited for the first time at the Getty Villa in 2006. The questions raised by the study were numerous and comprehensive: whether the portrait attached to the mummy represented the mummified individual; the precise state of preservation of the body inside the wrappings; whether there were any inclusions such as jewels or amulets within the wrappings; what materials had been used in the mummification and subsequent adornment process; and whether a precise date could be attached to the mummy and the portrait respectively. Additionally, in 2006 the Herakleides portrait mummy was included as part of the "Getty Red-Shroud Study Group", a project which aimed to determine whether similar materials were used to manufacture nine red-shroud mummies. It would appear, based on the information presented here, that both studies were resounding successes, and have added immeasurably to our knowledge not only of mummy portraits, but also of portrait mummies, beliefs about the afterlife, funerary practice and the mechanics of the mummification process in Egypt during the Roman period.

No comments: