Conservation, IR, UV and 3D-imaging: The Egyptian execration statuettes project

Luc Delvaux, Hendrik Hameeuw, Athena Van der Perre, Vanessa Boschloos, France Ossieu, Bruno Vandermeulen, Marc Proesmans, Dennis Braekmans

    Research output: Book/ReportReportScientific


    The Egyptian collection of the RMAH comprises about one hundred execration figurines made of unbaked clay, bearing curses written in hieratic script (a cursive writing system related to hieroglyphs) and dating to the Middle Kingdom (c. 1850 BC). These represent captured (foreign) enemies and were buried ritually in order to symbolically neutralise foreign and domestic enemies and general threats. Nearly 90 years after their discovery, the red and black pigments used to inscribe these four millennia old objects are now faded or damaged. The Execration texts on these figurines are regarded as one of the most renowned collections of written sources for ancient Near Eastern studies, Egyptian history and Biblical studies for the early 2nd millennium BCE.
    When it comes to documenting every characteristic of an object in a highly detailed way, clay artefacts inscribed with ink and other pigments, such as the aforementioned figurines, pose a particular challenge. These three-dimensional media with curved surfaces hold traces of writing that, in some cases, have faded or have disappeared completely. The study of these objects is generally hampered by their poor state of conservation, any handling can result in a considerable loss of material (and therefore also valuable information).
    The EES project aimed to develop new imaging techniques (using interactive 2D, 3D and multispectral images) that can improve the legibility of faded inscriptions and enhance the decorations on clay objects. Combining 3D digitisation and multispectral imaging in a user-friendly and transportable system, that is also manageable by curators, conservators, researchers and other stakeholders in the museum, is a truly pioneering project. It must facilitate the management of recorded collections and offer numerous possibilities for historical and art-technical studies on these objects, while the future handling is limited to a minimum, thus ensuring their sustainability.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationBrussels, Belgium
    PublisherBelgian Science Policy
    Commissioning bodyBelgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks (BRAIN-be)
    Number of pages66
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Project BR/121/PI/EES
    • Pioneer projects


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