Scientists are working to unravel the mysteries of the mummy of a little girl whose body was prepared 1,900 years ago in Egypt. The Roman-Egyptian mummy is one of only approximately 100 portrait mummies in the world. These mummies have an extremely lifelike painting of the deceased individual incorporated into the mummy wrappings and placed directly over the person's face. The Romans introduced to Egypt these 2D portraits of the dead after almost 3,000 years of idealised 3D images. Just over three feet long, the little girl's body is swaddled in a copious amount of linen.
The outermost wrappings have been arranged in an ornate geometric pattern of overlapping rhomboids and also serve to frame the portrait. "We have some preliminary findings about the various materials, but it will take days before we tighten down the precise answers to our questions," said Stuart R Stock, research professor at Northwestern University in the US. "We have confirmed that the shards in the brain cavity are likely solidified pitch, not a crystalline material," Stock said. The face, painted with beeswax and pigment, gazes serenely outward, her dark hair gathered at the back. She is wearing a crimson tunic and gold jewellery, according to the researchers. Researchers are examining the materials and methods used to create both this intact portrait mummy and a well-preserved collection of Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits.
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