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Investigating Color in Roman Egypt

Multispectral images of the grave marker of Nemesion (KM 21052). The top left image shows the artifact in visible light, the top right shows ultraviolet-induced visible luminescence, and the bottom left shows infrared reflected false color.

A major outcome of a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Investigating Color in Roman Egypt website was launched during the summer of 2023. The grant project—directed by Kelsey Conservator Carrie Roberts—involved the imaging and analysis of pigment and dyes on artifacts from the Kelsey Museum’s renowned Roman Egyptian collection. The goals of the project, which has looked at approximately 150 objects to date, were to learn more about ancient color at the Kelsey and to develop a scalable scientific research tool that students, teachers, and others can use to explore color in their own archaeological collections.

Headquartered at the Kelsey, the project united various academic disciplines and consisted of a research team including museum conservators and curators, undergraduate and graduate students from U-M, and advisors from across the campus and around the world. The Investigating Color website includes research workflows, equipment lists, bibliographies, and case studies of select Kelsey Museum artifacts examined during the project’s extensive technical survey.