An assessment of multimodal imaging of subsurface text in mummy cartonnage using surrogate papyrus phantoms

Adam Gibson, Kathryn E. Piquette, Uwe Bergmann, William Christens-Barry, Graham Davis, Marco Endrizzi, Shuting Fan, Sina Farsiu, Anthony Fitzgerald, Jennifer Griffiths, Cerys Jones, Guorong Li, Phillip L. Manning, Charlotte Maughan Jones, Roberta Mazza, David Mills, Peter Modregger, Peter R.T. Munro, Alessandro Olivo, Alice Stevenson & 5 others Bindia Venugopal, Vincent Wallace, Roy A. Wogelius, Michael B. Toth, Melissa Terras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Ancient Egyptian mummies were often covered with an outer casing, panels and masks made from cartonnage: a lightweight material made from linen, plaster, and recycled papyrus held together with adhesive. Egyptologists, papyrologists, and historians aim to recover and read extant text on the papyrus contained within cartonnage layers, but some methods, such as dissolving mummy casings, are destructive. The use of an advanced range of different imaging modalities was investigated to test the feasibility of non-destructive approaches applied to multi-layered papyrus found in ancient Egyptian mummy cartonnage. Eight different techniques were compared by imaging four synthetic phantoms designed to provide robust, well-understood, yet relevant sample standards using modern papyrus and replica inks. The techniques include optical (multispectral imaging with reflection and transillumination, and optical coherence tomography), X-ray (X-ray fluorescence imaging, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, X-ray micro computed tomography and phase contrast X-ray) and terahertz-based approaches. Optical imaging techniques were able to detect inks on all four phantoms, but were unable to significantly penetrate papyrus. X-ray-based techniques were sensitive to iron-based inks with excellent penetration but were not able to detect carbon-based inks. However, using terahertz imaging, it was possible to detect carbon-based inks with good penetration but with less sensitivity to iron-based inks. The phantoms allowed reliable and repeatable tests to be made at multiple sites on three continents. The tests demonstrated that each imaging modality needs to be optimised for this particular application: it is, in general, not sufficient to repurpose an existing device without modification. Furthermore, it is likely that no single imaging technique will to be able to robustly detect and enable the reading of text within ancient Egyptian mummy cartonnage. However, by carefully selecting, optimising and combining techniques, text contained within these fragile and rare artefacts may eventually be open to non-destructive imaging, identification, and interpretation.

LanguageEnglish
Article number7
JournalHeritage Science
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018

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historian
artifact
interpretation
Mummies
Papyrus
Imaging
Ink
Optical
Egyptians
coherence
Carbon
Iron
X-ray Fluorescence
Modality
Penetration
Mask
Spectroscopy
Historian
Egyptologists
Plaster

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Gibson, A., Piquette, K. E., Bergmann, U., Christens-Barry, W., Davis, G., Endrizzi, M., ... Terras, M. (2018). An assessment of multimodal imaging of subsurface text in mummy cartonnage using surrogate papyrus phantoms. Heritage Science, 6(1), [7]. DOI: 10.1186/s40494-018-0175-4
Gibson, Adam ; Piquette, Kathryn E. ; Bergmann, Uwe ; Christens-Barry, William ; Davis, Graham ; Endrizzi, Marco ; Fan, Shuting ; Farsiu, Sina ; Fitzgerald, Anthony ; Griffiths, Jennifer ; Jones, Cerys ; Li, Guorong ; Manning, Phillip L. ; Maughan Jones, Charlotte ; Mazza, Roberta ; Mills, David ; Modregger, Peter ; Munro, Peter R.T. ; Olivo, Alessandro ; Stevenson, Alice ; Venugopal, Bindia ; Wallace, Vincent ; Wogelius, Roy A. ; Toth, Michael B. ; Terras, Melissa. / An assessment of multimodal imaging of subsurface text in mummy cartonnage using surrogate papyrus phantoms. In: Heritage Science. 2018 ; Vol. 6, No. 1.
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abstract = "Ancient Egyptian mummies were often covered with an outer casing, panels and masks made from cartonnage: a lightweight material made from linen, plaster, and recycled papyrus held together with adhesive. Egyptologists, papyrologists, and historians aim to recover and read extant text on the papyrus contained within cartonnage layers, but some methods, such as dissolving mummy casings, are destructive. The use of an advanced range of different imaging modalities was investigated to test the feasibility of non-destructive approaches applied to multi-layered papyrus found in ancient Egyptian mummy cartonnage. Eight different techniques were compared by imaging four synthetic phantoms designed to provide robust, well-understood, yet relevant sample standards using modern papyrus and replica inks. The techniques include optical (multispectral imaging with reflection and transillumination, and optical coherence tomography), X-ray (X-ray fluorescence imaging, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, X-ray micro computed tomography and phase contrast X-ray) and terahertz-based approaches. Optical imaging techniques were able to detect inks on all four phantoms, but were unable to significantly penetrate papyrus. X-ray-based techniques were sensitive to iron-based inks with excellent penetration but were not able to detect carbon-based inks. However, using terahertz imaging, it was possible to detect carbon-based inks with good penetration but with less sensitivity to iron-based inks. The phantoms allowed reliable and repeatable tests to be made at multiple sites on three continents. The tests demonstrated that each imaging modality needs to be optimised for this particular application: it is, in general, not sufficient to repurpose an existing device without modification. Furthermore, it is likely that no single imaging technique will to be able to robustly detect and enable the reading of text within ancient Egyptian mummy cartonnage. However, by carefully selecting, optimising and combining techniques, text contained within these fragile and rare artefacts may eventually be open to non-destructive imaging, identification, and interpretation.",
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Gibson, A, Piquette, KE, Bergmann, U, Christens-Barry, W, Davis, G, Endrizzi, M, Fan, S, Farsiu, S, Fitzgerald, A, Griffiths, J, Jones, C, Li, G, Manning, PL, Maughan Jones, C, Mazza, R, Mills, D, Modregger, P, Munro, PRT, Olivo, A, Stevenson, A, Venugopal, B, Wallace, V, Wogelius, RA, Toth, MB & Terras, M 2018, 'An assessment of multimodal imaging of subsurface text in mummy cartonnage using surrogate papyrus phantoms' Heritage Science, vol 6, no. 1, 7. DOI: 10.1186/s40494-018-0175-4

An assessment of multimodal imaging of subsurface text in mummy cartonnage using surrogate papyrus phantoms. / Gibson, Adam; Piquette, Kathryn E.; Bergmann, Uwe; Christens-Barry, William; Davis, Graham; Endrizzi, Marco; Fan, Shuting; Farsiu, Sina; Fitzgerald, Anthony; Griffiths, Jennifer; Jones, Cerys; Li, Guorong; Manning, Phillip L.; Maughan Jones, Charlotte; Mazza, Roberta; Mills, David; Modregger, Peter; Munro, Peter R.T.; Olivo, Alessandro; Stevenson, Alice; Venugopal, Bindia; Wallace, Vincent; Wogelius, Roy A.; Toth, Michael B.; Terras, Melissa.

In: Heritage Science, Vol. 6, No. 1, 7, 01.12.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AU - Gibson,Adam

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Gibson A, Piquette KE, Bergmann U, Christens-Barry W, Davis G, Endrizzi M et al. An assessment of multimodal imaging of subsurface text in mummy cartonnage using surrogate papyrus phantoms. Heritage Science. 2018 Dec 1;6(1). 7. Available from, DOI: 10.1186/s40494-018-0175-4