The walls of ancient Egyptian tombs can teach us much about the lives of the pharaohs and their entourages. Tomb paintings showed the deceased and their immediate family members involved in religious activities, the burial itself, or feasting at banquets and hunting in the Nile marshes.

But many such tombs were looted in antiquity and later on, or roughly excavated by foreign treasure hunters and early archaeologists. As a result, much of the painted decoration has suffered damage, despite being well-preserved by the arid environment.

Reconstructing those damaged sections of painted decoration has largely been done through educated guesswork, but a new study reveals how a technique called portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) is being used to study ancient materials and identify remnants of decoration which are either faint or entirely invisible to the eye.

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