This project aims to assess the feasibility of nondestructive digital imaging technology to read texts on papyri in mummy cartonnages. All data, findings and methodologies will be freely available online for further research.
The application of advanced imaging techniques has the potential to dramatically improve our study of papyri encapsulated in ancient artefacts and will potentially solve the problem of invasive, destructive approaches to the remains of our ancient past. This exploratory, pilot project, working with a range of international partners and collections between November 2015 and December 2017, tested the feasibility of non-destructive imaging of multi-layered Papyrus found in Egyptian mummy cartonnages.
Our research has shown that no current single imaging technique can identify both iron and carbon based inks at depths within cartonnage. If we are to detect and ultimately read text within cartonnage, a multimodal imaging approach is required, but this will necessarily be limited by cost, access to imaging systems, and the portability of both the system and the cartonnage.
We are currently in the process of publishing lessons-learned on findings and imaging methodologies for further research, including on affordances and limitations of specific imaging approaches, and how they can be used in tandem to recover extant text within layers of cartonnage. The data generated by the project is freely available and hosted by UCL under a Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal License for use by others.