Friday, January 23, 2009

Murals from Tomb of Nebamun featured in refurbished Egyptian Gallery at The British Museum

Although the ancient Egyptians stylized the human form, their naturalistic depictions of animals has always amazed me. The detail and vibrant color of the cattle in this fragment from the tomb of an Egyptian official named Nebamun, painted around 1350 BCE during the late 18th dynasty, is no exception. Acquired during the 1820s by the British Museum it has been carefully conserved over the last 10 years and is now featured in their recently rennovated Egyptian gallery. I wish it had been on display when I was there this past summer.

[Image courtesy of The British Museum]
"The alternating colours and patterns of cattle create a superb sense of animal movement. The artists have left out some of the cattle’s legs to preserve the clarity of the design. The herdsman is telling the farmer in front of him in the queue:

'Come on! Get away! Don’t speak in the presence of the praised one! He detests people talking …. Pass on in quiet and in order … He knows all affairs, does the scribe and counter of grain of [Amun], Neb[amun]’.

The name of the god Amun has been hacked out in this caption where it appears in Nebamun’s name and title. Shortly after Nebamun died, King Akhenaten (1352–1336 BC) had Amun’s name erased from monuments as part of his religious reforms."