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"Colors in Ancient Egypt" Abstract

04 July 2011

If you walked into the Egyptian Museum Exhibit today, what would you see? You would probably marvel at the beauty of the handwork and skills that created such intricate pieces of jewelry. You would carefully inspect the painting and carvings on various objects; such as amulets and pottery, and you would be impressed with the richness of color throughout it all. But even with all you may know about Egyptian history, you would only be getting half the story if you do not know how to "read" the color code.
Color, in ancient Egyptian language 'iwen', was considered an integral part of an item's or person's nature in Ancient Egypt, and the term could interchangeably mean color, appearance, character, being, or nature. Items with similar color were believed to have similar properties.
Egyptian artists used pure colors, both warm and cool, in creating jewelry and in painting reliefs, wooden figures and coffins, and details on stone sculpture. Colors had not only aesthetic appeal but also symbolic meaning. Blue and green were associated with water, the Nile, and vegetation. Yellow and gold stood for the sun and the sun god. Red and red-orange had complex meanings involving the desert, power, blood, and vitality.
Purity of color was important to Ancient Egyptians and the artist would usually complete everything in one color before moving on to the next. Paintings would be finished off with fine brushwork to outline the work and add limited interior detail.
All colors are beautiful, depending on personal taste. If not used wisely or combined well, color can cause appeal to look too gaudy or very drab.

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