Egyptian Sarcophagi and Mummies in the San Diego Museum of Man: Some Technical Studies

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


David A. Scott;


Studies in Conservation, Routledge, Volume 63, Number 4, p.215-235 (2018)


Nine ancient Egyptian sarcophagi of the twenty-fifth to twenty-sixth dynasty, one Ptolemaic Hawk Mummy, and one Amarna fresco were examined in the collections of the San Diego Museum of Man. Binding media, pigments, wood identification, deterioration and alteration products were identified. The pigment palette represents the basic suite of ancient Egyptian pigments: charcoal black, red ochre, yellow ochre, Egyptian blue, green earth, calcite, and gypsum. In the case of the Hawk mummy, oxammite was identified as a degradation product, together with magnesium phosphate, the first identification of oxammite in ancient artefacts. In a child’s coffin, realgar and orpiment were additionally identified. The binding media for practically all of the coffins studied was confirmed as gum Arabic with only one example of gum tragacanth found from a wall plaque from Amarna. Wood identification showed that Ficus sycomorus had been used, rather than the assumed cedar of Lebanon for coffin manufacture. One unidentified species of shrubby wood was also found. Some of the coffins had been restored, with one having a completely repainted face, in rutile, and the child’s coffin has an attached foot-box with modern screws. Possible indications of ancient reuse were found during the study.