Mansoor Amarna Collection

Zaki Iskandar,Ph.D. and Zahira Mustafa,Ph.D. Report

From the Egyptian Museum of Cairo


Introduction :

Mr. Mansour Abd El Said has a collection of sculpture pieces of El-Amarna type including some heads, plaques and statuettes. There were some arguments about their genuineness amongst the archaeologists. Mr. Etienne Drioton, Director General of the Antiquities Department, had asked the late Mr. A. Lucas to examine some of these sculpture pieces from the scientific point of view. Mr. A. Lucas examined 27 objects of them in 1942 and gave the following brief report:

Lucas' Report.

I examined the twenty-seven objects brought to the Museum by Mr. Mansoor. These were mostly heads, but including a large bust, several statuettes and a plaque. The material is a fairly soft limestone, often pink but sometimes white and sometimes pink with white patches. I analyzed several small fragments and found it to be normal limestone containing a small proportion of silica and coloured, when red, by means of oxide of iron.

The director of the Geological Survey informed me that pink limestone is plentiful in Egypt particularly in the Western desert on the Edfu-Dush road and on the Asiut-Kharga road. It occurs also near Fayid, between Ismailia and Suez. Specimens of pink limestone from all these localities in the Geological Museum are much more siliceous and much harder than that of the objects in question.

One noticeable feature of the heads is the irregular break at the neck, sometimes high up, which detracts from the symmetry of the sculpture and gives the objects an unfinished appearance. This break always has rounded edges and is never sharp, and in my opinion, is a genuine old break and not a modern fracture rubbed down to simulate an old break. This break need not be due to natural weathering after the object was carved, but might be accounted for by supposing that the objects were all made in the same school or workshop and that they were all trial pieces made by pupils or apprentices, who were given irregular blocks of stone to carve and that what looks like an irregular fracture was one of the edges of the block which was left in its original condition.

Many of these objects have small streaks or specks of black material, which consists of oxide of manganese. When these markings are in the form of dendrites ( tree- like form ), the surface is undoubtedly old since such markings are only formed naturally and always on the surface.

One of the statuettes is broken across the legs, but, although the two pieces undoubtedly belong to one another, the edges at the break are worn and the pieces do not join well. The Iskandar/Mustafa broken edges have been weathered, and probably anciently, but the rest of the statuette does not show any signs of weathering. The explanation of this is not clear.

Another statuette is broken into several pieces, but all the breaks are sharp and the pieces fit well together, showing that the breaks are recent.

I understand that the objects were not acquired by Mr. Mansour at once, but gradually over a period of many years on account of the difficulty of finding money to pay for them, and that he states that they were all found together in one lot and that he has known of them for some twenty years. If this is so, then in my opinion it is strongly in favour of their genuineness, since a modern forger would probably make only one or two at a time until these were sold before making others.

Several heads in the Cairo Museum of this period are of hard quartzite, and it has been suggested that, because a modern forger would have great difficulty in carving quartzite therefore the use of soft limestone points to modern work. A limestone head of this period of El-Amarna is described and illustrated by Schafer ( H.Schafer, Kunstwerke aus der Zeit des Amenophis IV, in Zeits, fur A. Sprache, vol.51, 1914. 73 ).

The fact that the objects are of an unusual stone ( pink limestone ) not known previously from this period, in my opinion, also points for their genuineness, since the stone, although the exact locality where it occurs is not known, is probably Egyptian.

The fact that the objects are not stained or soiled might be accounted for by supposing that they were found, not in a grave, or buried in the earth, but in a room at El-Amarna, which has gradually sanded up.

In my opinion, the balance of evidence is in favour of the objects being genuine.

A. Lucas

This report, however, did not put an end to the arguments concerning their genuineness, and another detailed report seemed necessary. Mr. E. Drioton has kindly asked us to examine the objects again and write a detailed report so as to settle this question.


We have examined 66 objects comprising the following :

a) two statuettes representing King Akhenaton ( standing ):
Mansour's register Nos.
b) three busts representing the King:
Mansour's register Nos.
c) twelve heads representing the King:
Mansour's register Nos.
d) four heads representing Queen Nefertiti :
Mansour's register Nos.
e) seven statuettes representing standing Princesses :
Mansour's register Nos.
f) one bust representing a Princess :
Mansour's register No. 140; 12 cms.high

g) fourteen heads of Princesses :
Mansour's register Nos.
h) two stelae representing, in high relief, the King standing and Queen Nefertiti presenting flowers to him :
Mansour's register Nos.
i) two fragments representing, in high relief, the King; one sitting on a chair:
Mansour's register No. 148; 19 x 8.5 cms
the other, probably sitting on a missing chair:
Mansour's register No. 327; 12 x 18 cms.

j) four stelae representing two Princesses :
Mansour's register Nos.
k) one plaque, in high relief, representing a bust of the King :
Mansour's register No. 234; 21 x 16 cms.

l) Nine plaques representing heads of Princesses :
Mansour's register Nos.
m) four plaques representing incomplete heads :
Mansour's register Nos.
n) a small piece including a part of the neck and the chest :
without number.

All the objects are of limestone of different colours ranging from yellowish to light pink. This limestone, however, contains in several cases some white patches as in Nos. 123, 126, 142, 144, 156, 320, and 328. The hardness of the stone agrees with that of the ordinary limestone though variable to some extent.


(a) A sample taken from one of the broken pieces was analyzed and the following results were obtained:

            Moisture                0.26
            Silica                  8.82
            Ferric Oxide            1.78
            Aluminum  Oxide         1.12
            Calcium Phosphate       0.87
            Titanium Oxide         traces.
            Manganese Oxides       traces.
            Calcium carbonate      81.82
            Magnesium carbonate     4.77
            Calcium sulphate        0.48
            Sodium chloride         0.76

                      TOTAL       100.68 

(b) Some powder was scraped out from some of the white patches of Nos. 126, 156 and 328. These powders were analyzed qualitatively and found to be of siliceous limestone, but the percentage of iron oxide in them appears to be very small. These white patches are not recently added for restoration but must have been originally found in the limestone itself since they have almost the same composition of the stone itself though of different colour due to a less percentage of ferric oxide. This is more favoured by the fact that dendrites were also formed on the surface of these patches, in the same way as on the rest of the surface of the stone.

(c) Since many people thought that these objects were made of artificial stone, the silicate test was applied. Thus some of the sample was mixed with ammonium chloride and crushed together. No ammonia was evolved showing the absence of artificial silicates i.e., the material of the samples is ordinary limestone. This is more supported by the fact that there are no air bubbles at all in any part of the body of these pieces. Had these pieces been made of any artificial paste, they should have contained many air bubbles.

All the above analysis together with the macro and microscopical examinations show definitely that the material of the objects is the ordinary natural, somewhat, siliceous limestone and not artificially made in any way.

Surface Examination :

The surface examination includes the following :
  1. Surface colour or patina;
  2. Surface polish;
  3. Breaks .
1) Surface Colours or Patina :

In general it was noticed that the surface of all the objects examined is clearly different in colour and, somewhat deeper than the inside of the stone. This is clearly visible in Nos. 149 & 152 which contains some new small breaks showing the original colour of the stone. Thus, while the interior of the stone is pinkish white in No. 149 and Pink in No. 152, the surface of these two objects is almost wholly reddish brown with different shades. It was found that the same is true for all the other pieces when they are intentionally scratched to see the original colour of the stone.

The surface colours were examined for the purpose of knowing if these colours are surface additions or naturally formed. It was found that there are no surface paints intentionally applied to the surface except in statuette No. 136 on which slight remains of a red paint can be seen all over the surface and are especially more visible on the two arms and the shoulders. This red paint is composed of ferric oxide ( red ochre ) which agrees with the red water colours used by the Ancient Egyptians. The rest of the surface of the statuette, however, seems to have lost its red paint since a long time as it contains the naturally formed patina on most of the bare parts. All the other statuettes contain the naturally formed patina.

Composition of the Patina :

The patina is not, however, uniform in colour or composition. It varies from yellowish white, orange red, reddish brown, dark brown to black. On analysis it was shown that the yellowish patina is composed mostly of calcium carbonate with a small percentage of ferric oxide; the red patina of the different shades is mostly composed of ferric oxide; the black patina is mostly composed of manganese dioxide. Manganese dioxide was tested for in the pieces including the neck and the chest of the statue ( without number ), by treating the black part with sulphurous acid solution, some nitric acid added, solution boiled, potassium periodate added and the solution left for three hours; when the pink colour of permanganic acid was produced.

Resistance of the Patina to Solvents :

It was tried to remove the surface colour by means of water, alcohol, acetone or pyridine but it was shown to be resistant to all these solvents, favouring their formation naturally. Had the surface colour been a water-colour, it would have been removed with water especially if rubbed with a wetted piece of cotton or stiff brush. Had it been fixed to the surface with a resinous solution, celluloid or drying oil, it could have been removed by alcohol, acetone or pyridine respectively.

Besides being resistant to the solvents this surface colour is so adherent that, although of different colour it appears as a part of the stone itself. Moreover, it is bright and almost crystalline. All these characteristics prove that it had been slowly and naturally deposited in situ when the objects were exposed to the atmosphere for a very long time.

Orientation of the Patina:

This above conclusion is more supported by the orientation of the patina on the different parts of the surface of the objects. Thus the red brown patina is sometimes deposited in irregular aggregations in such a way that it cannot be imitated artificially. e.g., a patch on the left side of head No. 154 ( see photo ). The black patina is also found in most cases e.g., Nos. 124, 133, 134, 139, 142, 154, 155, 248, etc., in the forms of dendrites which are tree- like markings that cannot be artificially imitated, thus favouring the genuineness of these objects.

Chemical explanation of the patina formation :

It is apparent from the analysis of the limestone that it contains a few percentage of iron manganese salts besides the great percentage of calcium carbonate. The iron and manganese salts are here in the form of carbonates, silicates or both. If moisture coupled with carbon dioxide passes into the inside of the stone objects, the insoluble iron, manganese or calcium carbonate will be converted partly to their soluble bicarbonates. Since the stone is porous, the bicarbonates solutions which are formed inside the stone tend to come to the surface as efflorescence salts. By the action of atmospheric heat, these solutions dry and the bicarbonates decompose gradually giving the carbonates. The deposited carbonates in their turn decompose into the ferric oxide and manganese dioxide in case of iron and manganese respectively and remain as carbonate in case of calcium. This process being repeated for hundreds or thousands of years, a distinct layer of these efflorescence compounds is formed on the surface of the stone. The different admixtures or sole presence of the calcium carbonate, ferric oxide and manganese dioxide give the different colours and shades of the patina.

Different deepness of the colour of the Patina

It seems that not all the objects had been in the same position in the workshop or in the different places in which they were found. This is shown by the fact that some parts of the surface of the same object have different shades of patina. The parts which were more exposed to the atmospheric conditions have a thicker and deeper patina than those which were in contact with the sand or which were only exposed for some time and then sanded up. A good example showing this contrast is the stelae No. 321 in which the surface containing the low relief has almost no patina while the back has a thick layer of crystalline red brown patina. This means that this upper surface of the stelae was buried in the sand while its back was exposed to the atmosphere for a very long period.

A general feature which can be observed on the surface of all the objects is that the patina is always deeper on the higher or protruding parts of the sculpture such as the nose, the eyebrows, the lips, the chin, etc., while the grooves as in the low relief and hollow eyebrows, etc., the colour of the patina is always lighter. This is again greatly in favour of the natural formation of the patina and hence the genuineness of the objects. If the surface colour was artificially painted and not a naturally formed patina, the grooves would have much deeper colour owing to the accumulation of the paint in their hollows while the crests would have had a lighter colour.

Patina in cracks:

Another general feature is that the patina is also found in the cracks and even inside them whenever these cracks are wide, and can be examined by the lens. Thus in Nos. 129 and 137, there are cracks in which red brown patina and even some dendrites can be easily seen. This shows that these cracks were either originally in the piece of the stone before shaping it or anciently formed so that there was enough time for the deposition of the patina inside them. This is again in favour of their genuineness.

Artificial formation of the patina :

Now, a question may be raised. Is it possible to cause the deposition of a naturally formed patina within a few years in some artificial way ? Actually, it is possible to cause a patina to be formed on the surface of a limestone object by burying it in a wet salty soil impregnated specially with some soluble iron salts , then exposing it to the atmosphere for a few weeks and repeating this process for several times. The patina in this case, however, is not very crystalline and not so adherent to the stone as the patina which is formed slowly during hundreds or thousands of years. Moreover, this quick efflorescence of the salts causes the surface of the object to disintegrate and the patina cracks out so easily within a period not exceeding two years in any way. The objects under consideration have been shown to the Egyptian Museum since more than ten years and until now there is not the slightest change in the appearance and durability of their patina. This is actually a great evidence of their genuineness.

Organic excretions :

Some dark brown resinous looking spots or streaks were observed on the surface of many of these objects, e.g., Nos. 134, 144, 147, 154, 157, 232, 254, 326, etc. These, on analysis, proved to be of nitrogenous organic matter, probably animal excretions. Animal excretions, when old, acquire a resinous appearance and become difficultly affected by organic solvents. Since the excretions mentioned are not easily affected by the different solvents, are resinous looking, impregnating and extremely adherent to the stone, they must have been excreted on these objects since a very long time thus supporting the genuineness of these objects.

2) Surface Polish :
Microscopical examination of the surface shows two characteristic features concerning the surface polish : Irregular lines of polish :

The Ancient Egyptians used to polish the surface of their sculpture objects by rubbing them with stones such as dolerite balls held in the hand accompanied by an abrasive powder such as fine sand. This process is represented in many tombs such as in a Fifth Dynasty tomb at Saqqara1 and in an Eighteenth Dynasty tomb at Thebes2. The grooves and the hollows are also polished by rubbing them with a metal edge together with an abrasive powder3. Such an implement is shown in an Eighteenth Dynasty tomb2. Such methods of polish give rise to irregular lines on most of the polished surfaces. Such lines are easily detected on Ancient Egyptian objects. Since the lines of polish on the sculpture pieces under consideration are irregular and similar in all respects to those found on the Ancient Egyptian polished surfaces in the Egyptian Museum and elsewhere, we can safely say that the surface polish of these objects favours greatly their genuineness.

Had these objects been recently made, their surfaces would have been polished by one of two ways :

  1. By modern means i.e. by use of files, emery paper, etc., such methods would cause the surface to have regular and mostly parallel lines of polish. Such regular lines are altogether absent from any part of the surface of the objects under consideration.
  2. By the ancient methods of polishing described above. This method would actually give similar lines of polish as those expected if the objects were genuine. The presence of the almost crystalline and adherent naturally formed patina on the lines of polish indicates, however, that the polishing of the surface is ancient.
Surface Pitting :

The long contact of the Ancient Egyptian soft stone objects with sand always causes their surfaces to suffer some sort of pitting. This is what is expected since sand is much harder than the stone. This surface pitting is actually a common feature in all the objects under consideration. The extent of pitting, however, varies greatly according to the hardness of the piece. Although they are all of limestone yet their hardness varies to some extent. Accordingly some pieces have the surface considerably pitted as in Nos. 234, 252, 325, others are not so much pitted as in most of the other pieces.

Pitting, however, is sometimes almost absent in one of the sides of some pieces. This is actually explained by the fact that such surfaces were originally exposed to the atmosphere for a long time until the naturally formed patina deposited thickly on them. Such a layer of crystalline patina is always harder than the stone itself. When such surfaces were later buried in the sand they resisted greatly the pitting effect of sand in such a way that they either remained practically unaffected or slightly pitted.

3) Breaks:

Most of the objects have one or more breaks. Practically all of these breaks have blunt edges and a naturally formed patina, characteristics which are in favour of being ancient. These breaks, however, can be classified into the following :

  1. Irregular blunt breaks which do not contain any signs of polish : these breaks are found in most of these objects. They are most probably the edges of the original blocks which are left in their original condition after carving and polishing the pieces. A full detailed description of this kind of breaks is found in Mr. Lucas' report, mentioned before.
  2. Irregular blunt breaks containing some signs of ancient polish : Such breaks are only found in a few pieces, e.g. No. 245, in which one break at the neck contains some irregular lines of polish. These irregular lines are, however, covered with the naturally formed red brown patina showing that there was an ancient trial for polishing it. This break seems also to have been the unfinished edge of the original block used for making the head, but the sculpture student might have found that this edge was so irregular that he was obliged to round it slightly. Thus he polished it in the ordinary way so as to conform better with the whole shape of the head.
  3. Irregular breaks which took place after being left in the tomb or the workshop : Such breaks caused the object to be composed of two or more separate pieces, e.g.
    • statuette No. 249, broken into 2 pieces,
    • head No.140, broken into 2 pieces,
    • head No. 152, broken into 2 pieces,
    • statuette No. 242, broken into 2 pieces,
    • plaque No. 145, broken into 2 pieces,
    • plaque No. 151, broken into 2 pieces,
    • plaque No. 234, broken into 3 pieces.
    The broken pieces of the same object though belonging to each other, their edges at the breaks are worn in such a way that they do not fit well at the edge. Accordingly when stuck together the place of the break can be easily noticed. Mr. A. Lucas, in his report, referred to one of these broken objects mentioning that " the broken edges had been weathered and probably anciently, but the rest of the statuette does not show any signs of weathering. The explanation of this is not clear ". Actually, this may be explained by the following :
    1. The edges of the breaks after breakage directly are always sharp, thin and easily breakable and, by time, these sharp edges lose their sharpness and become blunt.
    2. The surface of the rest of the objects is always polished and therefore more resistant to the weathering factors than the unpolished sharp edges. These breaks which have blunt edges were examined thoroughly and no signs of any kind of polish were found. If they were made intentionally blunt by any artificial recent means lines of polish would have been apparent on their edges. The presence of old patina with its different shades on the surfaces of these breaks indicate also that the breakage took place since a very long time. All these features support considerably the genuineness of the objects.
  4. Regular smooth breaks : This kind of break is only found in Statuette No. 136 which is composed of four separate pieces i.e., it contains three breaks. One of these breaks is across the thighs and is a recent break since its surface is rough and contains no patina at all. The other two breaks are smooth and ancient. One of them is longitudinal towards the right side and the other is across the neck. Though the surface of these two breaks are very smooth, yet their pieces fit well together. The edges of the breaks, however, are blunt and their surfaces contain a naturally formed orange yellow patina. The only possible explanations for these smooth ancient breaks are:
    1. This statuette was broken intentionally and then an excellent trial for its restoration was done.
    2. The statuette was broken intentionally and then one of the sculpture students was asked to restore it. This might have been done as an exercise or examination in methods of restoration.
    3. The statuette was made of three separate pieces, each of them shaped in such a way that they all fit together to form the complete statuette. This might have been also given to the students as an exercise in sculpture. The fact that the big piece contains a crack which extends to the side piece favours, however, that the body of the statuette was obtained from one block which was later broken either accidentally or intentionally, then a trial for its restoration was done. As to the head, there are no apparent signs to indicate whether it belonged to the same piece or was made of a separate block which was later fitted to the other pieces to complete the statuette. At any rate, in order to conceal the breaks, they painted the whole statuette with a red paint, of which traces still remain, so as the whole statuette appears to be of a uniform colour. All of these explanations taken together are in favour of the fact that the smooth breakages are ancient and in favour of the genuineness of the statuette.

From all the above arguments and explanations, we find that all the points favour the genuineness of all the objects under consideration.

Zaki Iskandar
Zahira Mustafa
November 28,1950

Page 10 :
1. G. Steindorf, Das Grab des ti , pl. 134
2. P.E. Newberry, The Life of Rekhmara, pl. XX.
3. A. Lucas, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries, 3 rd . Ed. 1948. page 85.