There are so many exciting elements of the ancient Egyptian culture, and there are more new things discovered all the time that we would never have dreamed existed. Some of the most intriguing discoveries over the years are the art works found within the Egyptian tombs of antiquity.

Paintings that have been discovered inside tombs are some of the most remarkable ever discovered. These art works, which were never meant to be seen by anyone except the dead, were painted so that the deceased could take these images of their life with them into the afterlife.

Tomb KV6 Interior of the tomb of Ramses IX

These incomparable works were painted on walls and ceilings of the tombs, and were usually very colorful depictions of the person who had passed, living an enjoyable life, with plenty of food and perfect weather. Pharaohs were often shown with slaves around them, so that they could serve them in the afterlife.

Although most Egyptian statues we see today don’t show any color, most were originally painted with very bright colors. The Sphinx’s face was actually red, the beard was painted blue, and headdress yellow. Over time, because the paints used were colored by natural ingredients found in their local area, they simply couldn’t survive thousands of years of exposure in the desert.

The most-used colors in ancient Egyptian atrworks were blue, red, green, gold, and black; but white, pink, and grey were also used. Although the bright colors on most outdoor statues did not survive well in the desert climate, the interior of the tombs, sealed against intruders, appears to have been the perfect environment, as the number of paintings found in near-perfect condition is amazing.

Artists would grind the minerals into a fine dust and then mix them with a special type of glue, because the paint had to not only stick to the walls, but was designed to last forever.

Tomb QV44 Ramses III and his son Khaemwaset

Colors were very important in ancient Egypt, and each shade and tone used for the paintings was very carefully selected. The colors used were also symbolic, and represented some aspect of the culture.

Tomb art was thought to be the contact point between the living and the dead. Egyptian tombs were like clandestine art galleries, where kings were portrayed larger than life and in contrast, children, wives, servants, and animals were drawn much smaller, indicating their lesser importance.

The most direct way a tomb occupant could connect with the gods was through the Egyptian hieroglyph pictograms, which served a very specific function – to ensure certain gods were appeased and the correct rituals were performed. Hieroglyphs were inscribed in both rows and columns, and depending on the text design, could be read from either the right or the left.

Ancient Egyptian tomb art tells us a great deal about the era, its beliefs, and the Egyptians themselves, and the best way to understand how unique and intriguing it is, is to visit and see for yourself.