American Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Why Is This Tomb Blue?

Conservators in the tomb of Menna used a special technique to understand these 3,400-year-old paintings.


Deceased receiving offerings from their son (2009-03) by Katy DoyleAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Modern Conservation of Ancient Paintings

The tomb of Menna in Luxor, Egypt was built during Egypt's 18th Dynasty, 3,400 years ago. But over time, the vibrant wall paintings began to deteriorate, and a team of conservators were brought in to inspect and repair the paintings.

UV photograph of offering scene (2007-10) by Andreas PaaschAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Non-Invasive Innovations

Ultraviolet, or UV light, was one of the techniques used to analyze the paintings without ever having to touch the walls.

The analysis of the light waves of the reflected UV light helps distinguish pigments that appear very similar to the naked eye, like Egyptian blue and green.   

By employing UV-light, conservators were able to identify where organic compounds had been used in the paintings.  

UV photograph of Osiris (2007-10) by Andreas PaaschAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

For this depiction of the god Osiris in his golden kiosk, ancient Egyptian artists used an orpiment yellow wash, layered with huntite white, a carbonite mineral.  

The luminous gold color in the background reflects the divine nature of the god depicted.  

UV photograph of offering scene (2007-10) by Andreas PaaschAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

Through advanced imaging techniques, researchers have begin to unravel the secrets of the ancient artists and understand how these magnificent paintings lasted for so many millennium. 

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Credits: Story

The conservation and documentation of the tomb of Menna was sponsored by American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Project with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Georgia State University in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Created by Elisabeth Koch and Tessa Litecky, ARCE
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