Familiar faces

 作者:浑熨     |      日期:2019-03-07 09:17:00
By Emma Young Paintings of ancient Egyptians can reveal clues to neurological illnesses that plagued our ancestors, says an international team. They studied colour portraits from 2000-year-old mummies in the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and identified cases of progressive facial hemiatrophy, a disfiguring disease. Research into ancient neurological disease is hampered by a lack of well-preserved brain and nerve tissue, the team says. But the new research shows studies of ancient portraits can provide valuable information, says researcher John Stevens of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. Analysis of a skull known to belong to the subject of one particular portrait allowed the diagnosis to be confirmed in at least one of the cases, he adds. Analysis of another 31 normal skulls as well as more than 200 portraits convinced the team that when a warped face was depicted, it was not down to sloppy painting skills. “We studied skulls to show that when the portrait painter painted an asymmetric face, that asymmetry was genuinely reflected in the skull of the person painted,” he told New Scientist. The team, led by Otto Appenzeller at the New Mexico Health Enhancement and Marathon Clinics Research Foundation, studied portraits dating from the Graeco-Roman era. Realistic portraits to cover the head of a mummy were popular among Egypt’s middle classes at this time. One particular portrait showed a young man with an asymmetric face. Analysis of the skull belonging to the man also showed classic symptoms of progressive facial hemiatrophy. These include a thinning of the skull on one side, and a wasting of the tissues underneath. Other portraits revealed diverging eyes, and oval pupils, which can also be linked to underlying neurological problems, says Appenzeller. The number of mummies is too small to provide a representative sample and draw conclusions about the prevalence of neurological disorders in ancient Egyptians. But studies of portraits will be an important addition to written records and scans of mummified bodies to provide a better overall understanding of the presence of various diseases in antiquity, Stevens says. More at: Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (vol70,