An Ancient Egyptian Mural Offers an Exquisitely Detailed View of Several Bird Species

A century ago, archaeologists excavated a 3,300-year-old Egyptian palace in Amarna, which was fleetingly the capital of Egypt during the reign of the pharaoh Akhenaten. Situated far from the crowded areas of Amarna, the North Palace offered a quiet retreat for the royal family.

On the west wall of one extravagantly decorated chamber, today known as the Green Room, the excavators discovered a series of painted plaster panels showcased birds in a lush papyrus marsh. The artwork was so detailed and skillfully rendered that it was possible to pinpoint some of the bird species, including the pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) and the rock pigeon (Columba livia).

Recently, two British researchers, Chris Stimpson, a zoologist at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and Barry Kemp, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge, set out to identify the rest of the birds depicted in the panels. An attempt to conserve the paintings in 1926 backfired, causing some damage and discoloration, so Dr. Stimpson and Dr. Kemp had to rely on a copy made in 1924 by Nina de Garis Davies, an illustrator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their findings were published in December in the journal Antiquity. Among the riddles they tried to solve was why two unidentified birds had triangular tail markings when no Egyptian bird known today has them.

What Next?

Recent Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be Logged in to post comment.