Madrid, 30 years (Europe Press)
Painted more than 3,000 years ago, these pictures of the natural world likely created space for relaxation and recreation in the palace.
The works were discovered in Amarna, the capital of Pharaoh Akhenaten (1347-1332 BC). Excavations conducted in 1924 unearthed a palace belonging to Meritaten, daughter of the pharaoh and Nefertiti, with many profusely decorated rooms. One, the so-called Green Room, has a rare depiction of birds in a wild sedge bog with no signs of human activity.
“They have been considered masterpieces of ancient Egyptian art ever since,” says Dr. Christopher Stimpson and Professor Barry Kemp. “Some of the most skillful and naturalistic depictions of birds known from the age of the Egyptian dynasties appear in these paintings.”
Despite the quality of these images, they have received relatively little attention. For this reason, not all of the bird species that appear in art have been identified in the nearly 100 years since their discovery.
“The art in the Green Room has not caught on as well as one might hope. This may be because the original plasterwork has not survived so well,” says Dr Stimpson, Honorary Associate at Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Antiquity, where the study was published. Attempts to preserve the painting in 1926 resulted in the work being accidentally damaged and discolored.
So Dr. Stimpson and Professor Kemp set out to identify the birds in the green room. Both consulted recent ornithological data and a high-quality copy of Nina de Garis Davies’ 1924 work on Bird Identification.
Researchers have been able to identify several species, including the shrike and wagtail. These join the fisherman and pigeons identified in the earlier work. They also discovered that the artists may have included clues to ancient birdwatchers: migratory birds are marked with a triangle, which may indicate a seasonal element in the art.
The artwork may also show an ancient Egyptian problem with pigeons. Rock doves have been photographed, but they are not native to the sedge bogs, and are instead associated with nearby desert slopes.
Perhaps, as in modern cities, pigeons were drawn to the area by human activity. Although the researchers cannot rule out this possibility, they believe the artists included these birds to make the scene appear more wild and untamed, an atmosphere the photorealistic artwork seems designed to create. The team suggests that these images of the natural world made the green room a comfortable place to relax.
says d. Stimpson.
“In the green room, the atmosphere was probably enhanced by visions of nature. The calming effects of the natural world were just as relevant (more than ever) today.”