Archaeologists have uncovered a series of vibrantly-colored frescoes in an ancient temple at Esna, Egypt, located about 60 km south of the ancient Egyptian capital of Luxor.
The ancient temple at Esna, dedicated to the Egyptian deity Khnum, is one of the last examples of ancient Egyptian temple architecture.
Only the vestibule (pronaos) of the original temple complex survived, because it was used as storage facility for cotton during the 19th century CE.
The building measures 37 m long, 20 m wide, and 15 m tall, and was decorated mainly during the Roman period (1st to 3rd century CE).
The roof is supported by 18 columns with wonderfully varied floral capitals in the form of palm leaves, lotus buds and papyrus fans; some also have bunches of grapes, a distinctive Roman touch.
“The relief images in the central section of the ceiling (central bay) make up a total of 46 depictions of the Upper-Egyptian vulture goddess Nekhbet and the Lower-Egyptian serpent goddess Wadjet,” said Professor Christian Leitz, a researcher at the University of Tübingen.
“Both are depicted as vultures with outspread wings,” he added.
“While Nekhbet bears the head of a vulture and the white crown of Upper Egypt, Wadjet can be recognized by the Lower-Egyptian crown topped with a cobra.”
Professor Leitz and colleagues have been studying the reliefs, painting and inscriptions in the Esna temple since 2018.
“Temples and ancient depictions of the gods were often painted in brilliant colors, but these have usually faded or even disappeared totally as a result of external influences,” Professor Leitz said.
“In the Temple of Khnum at Esna, the colors have been covered by a coating of dirt and soot for almost 2,000 years, and this has helped to conserve them.”
“The glory of the color used in the depictions of the ‘Two Ladies,’ Nekhbet and Wadjet, which has now been revealed was previously unknown to experts.”
“From the 1950s, the French egyptologist Serge Sauneron systematically documented the Temple of Khnum at Esna and the paintings that were visible at that time,” added Dr. Daniel von Recklinghausen, also from the University of Tübingen.
“The temple’s complete range of images is unique in its wealth of figures and the state of preservation of the colors.”
“For the first time we can see all the decorative elements in relation to one another,” Professor Leitz said.
“This was impossible simply with Sauneron’s publication.”