From Mystery to Understanding: Applying the Principles of Social Psychology to the Fayum Portraits of Roman Egypt
Eilander, Brett L.
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This study attempts to establish a method of interpreting the Fayum portraits that is based in scientific research. In general, the lack of an established methodology has hindered attempts to explain the strong emotional response elicited by the Fayum portraits in modern viewers, and presumably in their ancient counterparts. The methodology being tested in this study is the applicability of modern psychological research on facial attractiveness to the Roman Fayum portraits. The goal is to determine whether the established psychological principles of facial attractiveness consistently appear in the faces of the individuals depicted in the Fayum portraits. These findings could help validate modem psychological research on the concept of universality in the principles of human facial attractiveness. The results may also offer some justification for the use of a methodology based in psychological research to interpret and analyze the Fayum portraits.