Almost everything we know about ancient Egyptians we know because of what we learned from their sculptures and paintings. Egyptian art was first created to show that a king/pharaoh was a god. Pictures were carved on stone and slate, and paintings were done on walls in many colors. Egyptians also created sculptures of human and animal figures.
While art showed stories and happenings, it was really not meant to be seen by the living, it was only for the afterlife in tombs. Egyptian paintings had lines called registers which divided the art into different levels or scenes. Paintings were usually on the inside of tombs to make the afterlife more enjoyable (this was made certain when scientists found paintings in King Tut’s tomb). In paintings, people had bodies facing forward but their heads were faced to the side. All art had hieroglyphics written on it describing what was happening. Egyptian art had no perspective, meaning no depth.
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In art, the Egyptians would make the people or animals bigger or smaller by how important they were in society. A pharaoh would be huge and tall, and a slave or peasant would only be the height of the pharaoh’s knee. Pharaohs were the same size as gods, and slaves or ordinary people were shorter and smaller. Pharaohs were usually tense, and ordinary people were relaxed in art.
Colors and symbols had special meanings in Egyptian art. For example, green represented new life, red represented life, fire, victory, and rage, and white represented purity and authority. Animals were common symbols in art and often represented Gods and Goddesses. The vulture meant motherhood, The scarab beetle meant transformation or growth, and the jackal meant the god of the afterlife.
Another type of art Egyptians designed were sculptures. Sculptures were figures of animals and people. Unlike in paintings, all the sculptures had realistic faces, and always faced forward. Seated figures always had their hands on their knees and were always stiff and formal. One leg in front of the other was a common pose for statues. Sculptures were always covered in paint, but the paint has rubbed off over time.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry is considered some of the most beautiful in the world. Jewelry showed importance and respect, and it was very bright, heavy, and expensive. Every person wore jewelry, except for slaves. Children under 6 years of age wore no clothing, but they did wear jewelry! Most Egyptians wore collar pieces, and the more money they had the fancier it was. Amulets and collar pieces were located between each layer of wrapping on a mummy in order to provide strength more than a decoration. King Tut’s mummy had 11 collar pieces and 20 amulets in its layers!
Earrings were new to royalty in King Tut’s time and were probably brought from Western Asia. Lapis lazuli, the most famous Egyptian stone, had to be imported. Babies often wore pendants to protect them from evil spirits because it was so common for children to die in infancy. Jewelry had to be surrendered if someone was defeated during combat. Gold symbolized gods in ancient Egyptian jewelry.
The scarab beetle was a symbol of rebirth or a new life. The scarab beetle was thought to hold extremely high religious and magical powers.
The first Egyptian art dated back 5000 years. The art and jewelry was kept in their tombs wich preserved it for us to learn about their lives. They expressed themselves in art, and they explained in art what was going on in their lives. The symbols showed us what was important to them, how they dressed, and what they looked like. Could the Egyptians have seen the future by knowing today we would find their masterpieces?
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