Unfortunately, we are not well informed with regard to the necropolises and the hypogea
where the mummies with portraits were discovered. The major sites of er-Rubayat,
Abousir el-Melek and even Hawara were looted by grave robbers well before the archeologists
took them over; the looting was far too advanced to even consider an investigation: yawning
trenches, dismembered mummies and tattered shrouds prevented even normal sampling, let alone
the study of Egyptian Greco-Roman funerary rites, of which we know so little.
Moreover, many of these portraits were acquired by museums or collectors on the open market, from specialized antique dealers, such as Theodor Graf, who procured them from their regular agents in Cairo who were, in turn, supplied by professional scouts, whose talents consisted of finding peasants with a lucky shovel. A person seeking to follow the trail will always be blocked, at one level or another, by the obstinate silence of people who will never reveal their sources.