My research centers on a Roman Egyptian terracotta figurine that shows an image of a Roman emperor dressed in military costume smiting a barbarian enemy. The identification of this artifact proved challenging because we posses no details about its place of excavation and because it is an unusual image. This meant that a study of its form, content, and style would be required in order to attribute the ancient object to its original time and place. After an extensive study, I determined that the Romans adopted a classic Egyptian royal “smiting the enemies” pose and transformed it into a document of Roman domination over Egypt. Additionally, I believe the emperor depicted is Hadrian, which suggests a date range for the artifact.

Once I had identified the type of image, I conducted a detailed study of its use in Egypt and the Roman Empire in order to understand its cultural and historical significance. I also conducted an international search for similar objects. My research revealed that this USC terracotta figurine is a rare, high-status artifact, even though it is made of clay, which was not an expensive material. Only five other examples exist in published collections anywhere in the world, one of which I visited and studied at the British Museum.

This figurine is important for another reason: some of its red, green, and pink paint is still preserved. I collaborated with David Scott, conservation scientist of the Getty /UCLA Conservation Program and used XRF analysis and polarized light microscopy to identify and analyze the paints and pigments. This has enabled me to recreate the original appearance of this artifact digitally and create a 3D model that can be displayed alongside the ancient object. 


Special Thanks to:

Prof. Lynn Swartz Dodd (Curator of the USC Archaeology Research Center and Faculty Sponser)

Prof. David Scott (Founding Director of the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program)

Prof. John Pollini

The British Museum

Kristin Butler (Inscriptifact)

J.R. Thal

SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Research)

URAP (Undergraduate Research Associates Program)

  • Grant Dixon