London, October 28 (ANI): A study of mummy portraits has revealed that not only did the Egyptians create some stunning sculptures and pieces of architecture, 1st century A.D artists were also talented painters and even tweaked features slightly to make them more flattering.
Egyptologist Bob Brier and his team from Long Island University used a CT scanner to produce physical models of the mummies' skulls which were then used by a crime artist to recreate their faces.
It was a painstaking process that took several days per mummy but the results have proven to be a success and Brier is keen to extend it to look at more mummies.
The difficulty is, however, that while there are more than 1,000 mummy portraits, less than 100 are still attached to the people they depict.
In some of the images noses have been made to look smaller than in reality and jaw lines more chiselled, so much so that in one Brier initially thought it had been mistakenly paired with the wrong mummy.
"It is possible that during the mummification procedure, when several bodies were being mummified at the same time, a mismatch occurred," the Daily Mail quoted Brier as telling ABC News.
However, on closer inspection they noted enough similarities to be satisfied that it was in fact the right one.
Portraits of the mummies are surprisingly life-like, with accurately proportioned features.
They shed light on the purpose of the portraits and the study demonstrates the shift from symbolic art to realistic art after the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 B.C.
"This is a very sound manner of testing the hypothesis that the mummy portraits were made when the individual was alive," Salima Ikram from the American University in Cairo, who was not involved with the study, said.
"It enhances our understanding of the concept of portraiture and its importance at this time.
"The difficulty is finding portraits that are still bound to the mummy. Many portraits were taken off the mummies and sold during the 19th century and early part of the 20th century," Ikram added.
The study has been published in the journal ZAS. (ANI)