Exhibition Publication Now Available – Portrait of a Child: Historical and Scientific Studies of a Roman Egyptian Mummy

Title: Portrait of a Child: Historical and Scientific Studies of a Roman Egyptian Mummy
Contributors: Essi Rönkkö (Editor and Contributor), Taco Terpstra (Editor and Contributor), Marc Walton (Editor and Contributor), Victoria Cooley (Contributor), Caroline Cartwright (Contributor), Jonathan D. Almer (Contributor), Lorelei Corcoran (Contributor), Rachel C. Sabino (Contributor)
Publication Date: November 2019
Page Count: 112 pages
Trim Size: 9.75 x 7
ISBN: 1-7325684-1-3
Publisher: The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, distributed by Northwestern University Press


The Block Museum of Art is pleased to announce the release of Portrait of a Child: Historical and Scientific Studies of a Roman Egyptian Mummy a companion publication to the museum’s 2018 exhibition Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt.

Portrait of a Child is an illustrated guide to the fascinating story of the mummy known to archaeologists as “the Hawara Portrait Mummy No. 4.” Discovered in 1910 by British archaeologist Flinders Petrie at the Roman-Egyptian archaeological site of Hawara, the mummified child was buried with a luminous painted portrait which has captivated viewers ever since. This book tells the story of the cutting-edge research that has revealed more about her life and death.

This young girl has united us in our curiosity so that we could bring her world, so distant in time and place, a little closer to ours. Little did the Roman family who had their five-year-old daughter embalmed and swaddled in exquisite linen wrappings know that she would become so significant to other young people almost two millenia later. The extraordinary opportunity to participate in this study has, we hope, shown these young people the value of reaching beyond the confines of a single field of study to that which can only be discovered with the help of others who see, think, and know differently.

Lisa Corrin, Block Museum Director

The centerpiece of a 2018 exhibit at Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art titled Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt the mummy was the focus on intense, multidisciplinary research. University researchers used CT scan technology to investigate the cause of the child’s death and identify the method and materials used in mummification. Traveling to the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the mummy then became the first ever analyzed using Advanced Photon Source synchrotron technology, where a high-brilliance X-ray beam revealed more details about her bone matter and the materials she was entombed with. Accompanied by a wealth of color images, maps, and diagrams, Portrait of a Child, shares new scientific findings, as well as the conservation, ethical, and museological considerations weighed by the researchers and curators.

“This publication deepens the extraordinary story of the Hawara Portrait Mummy No. 4 that we uncovered during the planning for our 2018 exhibition. It paints a multidimensional picture of what we can learn about life in Roman Egypt through research, and showcases the way in which the museum can act as a laboratory for convening interchange of ideas across disciplines.”

Essi Rönkkö, Curator and Editor

Written for the knowledgeable general reader, the book presents recent multidisciplinary research that explores the mummy, the economic and cultural history of Hawara within the Roman Empire, as well as the life of a girl in Egypt at the turn of the second century.


  • Foreword
    Lisa G. Corrin and Julio M. Ottino
  • Introduction: A Roman Egyptian Mummy from Hawara
    Essi Rönkkö, Taco Terpstra, and Marc Walton
  • A Girl from Hawara: Childhood in Roman Egypt
    Essi Rönkkö
  • The Many Voices of Treatment: Conservation of a Roman Mummy
    Rachel C. Sabino
  • A Portrait Painting of a Young Girl: Results from Scientific Analysis
    Victoria Cooley, Caroline Cartwright, and Marc Walton
  • The Materials of Mummy Portraits in the Context of the Roman Economy
    Taco Terpstra
  • Sex, Age, and Mummification Practices: Evidence from 3-D X-Ray Imaging and X-Ray Diffraction
    Stuart R. Stock, Michala K. Stock, Olivia Dill, and Jonathan D. Almer
  • From Egypt to Evanston: The Modern Afterlife of a Portrait Mummy
    Lorelei H. Corcoran
  • APPENDIX A: Interior and Exterior: The Function and production of Mummy Portraits in Relation to the Mummification Process
    Olivia Dill
  • APPENDIX B: Visualizing an Ancient Mummy with X-Ray Imaging and Augmented Reality
    Nathan Matsuda
  • APPENDIX C: Audio for the Ancients: Fine-Tuning Museum Experience with Sound
    Thomas Molash


ESSI RÖNKKÖ is an assistant curator of collections at The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. She worked for the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College between 2009–2015 before joining The Block in 2016. Her work has focused on academic programming and curatorial projects related to the ancient Mediterranean with research interests that include gender and concepts of masculinity in the early Roman Empire.

TACO TERPSTRA is an assistant professor of classics and history at Northwestern University. Terpstra is a socioeconomic historian of ancient Rome. He is the author of Trading Communities in the Roman World: A Micro-Economic and Institutional Perspective. In 2015–16 he was a Fellow at Northwestern’s Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

MARC WALTON is Research Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University. Walton worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for two years prior to joining the Getty Conservation Institute in 2005, where he was an associate scientist responsible for the scientific study of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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