The Symbolic Use of Color in Ancient Egyptian Art

Shadows of the Sun

KV 57 Tomb of HoremhebDetail of a vibrant and well-preserved mural from the tomb of Horemheb (KV57). Egyptian paints were generally created from mineral sources, lending them unmatched vibrancy.Image source.

The Ancient Egyptians’ use of color is a controversial topic, one which is quite often deeply misunderstood. It is a famous point of contention for those overly concerned with “race,” specifically Afrocentrists, some of whom often make claims to the effect of Egyptian deities being “literally Black” because some were depicted with black or reddish-brown skin in some instances, and that Ancient Egyptian society, rather than being a multi-ethnic Afro-Asiatic mosaic* society as has been clearly and repeatedly demonstrated to the point of intuitive ubiquity, were originally and uniformly “Black Africans” by virtue of one of the several names for their homeland: Kemet, or “Black Land.” However, such claims furthering specific racial ideologies grossly decontextualize and distort the Ancient…

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