Archaeologists working in Egypt uncovered a stunning collection of mummy portraits in 1899. Eerily familiar, the works are likenesses of the dead attached to their mummified remains, and they were created when the Romans held sway in Egypt some 2,000 years ago. The portraits had languished in storage ever since their discovery. But by 2015 scientists and conservators were re-evaluating these paintings – and they’ve made some startling findings.
These depictions, painted on wooden panels and also known as Fayum portraits, were faithful representations of people who had died. The panels were been added to the mummy with the bindings and placed just over the face of the deceased. The practice was used during the time when the Roman Empire included Egypt.
The Romans incorporated Egypt into their empire in 30 B.C. After defeating his enemy Mark Antony, Octavian, later the Emperor Augustus, seized Egypt from the pharaoh of the day, Cleopatra. She and Mark Antony had been lovers. What had been the Ptolemaic Kingdom now became a possession of Rome.