Egyptian shroud - no longer shrouded in mystery

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Textile conservator Anne-Marie Hughes has been preparing this 2000 year old Egyptian shroud for display in the new Egyptian gallery at World Museum Liverpool, which opens next year. I was privileged to see it in her studio while she was working on it.

The shroud was framed in the 19th century and had been glued to the back board, so Anne-Marie has had to remove it, which was quite a job, before remounting it on silk. 

The pink paint on the shroud is going to be analysed to see if it's from Rio Tinto in Spain. Recent research by the Brooklyn Museum has revealed Spanish paint on one of their mummies.

Head of Antiquities Ashley Cooke told me more about the shroud itself:

"This is a small fragment from a large painted linen shroud that once was wrapped around a mummified body. It dates to circa AD 100 - 200, a time when Egypt was a province of the Roman empire. Mummification continued to be practiced during the Roman period but the techniques employed were inferior to those of earlier periods. It was common for greater attention to be devoted to the external appearance of the wrapped mummy. Shrouds were painted with portraits representing the deceased in poses adapted from Hellenistic Greek repertoire. The Liverpool shroud depicts the transfigured dead person who has assumed the identity of Osiris, appearing in mummy form in frontal pose. Osiris is wearing the Atef crown with a plume on either side and a small disc and uraeus at the centre. His hands clasping across his chest hold the flail and sceptre of Egypt.

The shroud was found in Egypt in 1870 but other information about the excavation was not recorded. The museum acquired this piece from the collection of the famous pharmaceutical entrepreneur Sir Henry Wellcome in 1973.
Funerary shrouds such as this offer an interesting conjunction of Greek, Roman and Egyptian forms of representing the individual. Over the next year the museum will be carefully studying the iconography and artistic techniques used to further our understanding of this fascinating and beautiful object."