Virtuous or Wicked New Occurrences and Perspectives on the Black Silhouette in Graeco-Roman Egypt

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Wahid Omran



The present study explores the depictions, forms, and funerary role of the black silhouette figures of Graeco-Roman Egypt. These semi- or full skeletal silhouettes figures which appear on coffins, mummy shrouds, papyri, stelae, and in tombs, have various functions. This study compares the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman funerary conceptions of these silhouettes, offers new occurrences and depictions of them, and gives new interpretations for them, namely that they are mainly of two contrasting types; one being beneficial, as a blessed spirit who assists the deceased at the judgment, while the other is an enemy of the deceased who is destroyed at the judgment. The Roman tombs at el-Salamuni show new unpublished examples of these silhouettes that reflect an ambivalent function, and present their virtuous and guilty characteristics in the same scene.


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