Ancient Egyptian Tomb Paintings.

The almost animated ancient Egyptian tomb paintings discovered in graves across Egypt are colourful illustrations of how the ancient Egyptians lived, worked, worshipped and loved.

What were they for?

In some cases, this vibrant wall art was all about depicting the deceased in the afterlife or the trials to get there. There are many paintings of gods and depictions of the weighing of the heart ceremony and other similar scenes which are all to be expected in a tomb.

But there are many examples of other themes also and the paintings give us a visual understanding about the Egyptian way of life. The Egyptians were able to demonstrate not just their belief in how important the afterlife is but how important life in general was to them.

What has been learned from these paintings?

A great deal has been learned about ancient Egypt from these telling paintings and reliefs.

For instance, a nobleman's tomb from Thebes tells us the following information.

* Hieroglyphs around the pictures of him tell us his name is Nebamun and that he had a wife and daughter.

* He is depicted with a throwing stick used to hunt birds. This tells us that Nebamun liked to hunt, which was a sport for a nobleman.

* There are depictions of women with perfume cones and wigs which give us an insight into the style of the time.

* There are work scenes with mules and carts as well as inspectors measuring a harvest.

* Pictures of plants, birds and foods tell us about simple but important information about everyday occurrences and the environment.

Living it up.

Tomb paintings have also shown the modern world that Egyptians liked to have a good time. There are scenes of scantily clad servant girls serving food at banquets. Lots of dancing, musical instruments and mountains of food such as duck, geese, fowl and fruit.

Protecting the art

Examples of ancient Egyptian tomb art can be seen all over Egypt but not always by tourists. Dr Zawi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, has fought hard to protect all art forms including tomb paintings from tomb raiders and excessive tourism.

Many of the sites tomb paintings are subject to things such as fading and moisture caused simply by humidity resulting from the breath of thousands of tourists. Cutting back access to many of these sites will help preserve them.

But that does not mean the world will never be able to enjoy the ancient art again. Digital imaging has been used in many cases to record tomb paintings and even restore colour that has faded over time. Virtual tours by DVD documentaries will be the new way to explore these expressive and informative paintings.

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