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Technical Analysis of a Ptolemaic Child Sarcophagus and the Identification of Ancient and Modern Reuse


The goals of this project are the technical analysis of a Ptolemaic child coffin lid, development of a conservation strategy, and realization of priority stabilization interventions. Early in the process of evaluation and analysis irregularities in the appearance and structure of the coffin suggested re-use of components. This thesis proposes that there are incidences of ancient and modern reuse of structural elements in this coffin lid, and substantiates this assertion through the results of a technical analysis.

Non-destructive and destructive methods of analysis were used including UV induced visible fluorescence, Infrared and Visible-induced luminescence (VIL) imaging. Particle samples were investigated microscopically, and using XRF or X-ray Fluorescence spectroscopy, XRD or X-ray Diffraction, FTIR or Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy and GC-MS or Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry technologies were used for elemental and molecular analysis. Egyptology scholars, conservators, and materials scientists were consulted.

The text establishes the historical context, and the use and meaning of the artifact. The object is described, the pigment analysis is presented, and prior interventions to the object are elaborated. The collective results of the technical analysis, observation and consultation are interpreted to substantiate the assertion of modern and ancient reuse.

Technical analysis supports the observation that face of the deceased is inconsistent with the Ptolemaic period and that is was created in an early dynastic period and reused on this coffin in antiquity. The components of the foot-block are identified as ancient but not associated with this coffin, and 20th century adhesives and hardware are evidence that it is a modern addition. Social and economic demands in antiquity, and also in the post-excavation period of the late 19th and 20th centuries, have motivated alterations to objects of cultural and economic importance. This thesis provides substantial evidence of ancient and modern reuse and contributes information about ancient materials and methods of manufacture and distinctions between modern and ancient materials.

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