Between 30 BC and the 3rd century AD, during which period Egypt was a province of the Roman Empire, a practice developed of attaching a portrait of a mummified individual to their mummy wrappings. Approximately 1,100 of these paintings have been collected over the centuries, the majority during the 19th and early 20th century – but, as many were bought and sold as works of art instead of archaeological artefacts, information about their context and provenance has disappeared.
Wood can be a difficult, and costly, archaeological material to preserve. This is nowhere better highlighted than by the enormous efforts put into place to help conserve the Mary Rose. When the remains of Henry VIII’s warship were lifted out of the Solent in 1981 (see CA 218 and 272), little was known about how best to preserve the wreck once it had been removed from the protective anoxic conditions under the seabed. But over the past three decades, multiple techniques have been developed to keep the ship, and other wooden artefacts recovered from archaeological contexts, from degrading before our eyes. In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we explore the latest of these preservation techniques.