World’s Best Preserved Hellenistic Paintings Restored in Jordan

Travel News — By Candice Walsh on September 8, 2010 at 11:00 am

Experts from the Courtauld Institute in London have restored a number of 2000-year old Hellenistic-style wall paintings at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra in Jordan. Coated by centuries of black soot, smoke and other matter, the restoration project took about three years and revealed the exceptional quality of the paintings.

The artwork includes finely detailed vines, grapes, ivy, bindweed and other characteristics of Dionysus (the ancient Greek god of wine.) The effect is said to be “jaw dropping.” These works are said to be even better than the Hellenistic-inspired Roman paintings at Herculaneum. (And somewhere, a Roman artist is turning in their grave.)

The paintings were created by the Nabataeans, an ancient civilization of incredibly successful merchants who traded frequently with the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. Little is known about them, but they were a well-governed society with few slaves and a love for freedom, evident by their bouts of excessive drinking. At one point Petra was their capital city.

The paintings were found in the canyon of Siq al-Barid in Beidha, about 5 kilometers away from the main site, and are already being dubbed one of “Petra’s most remarkable treasures” and conservation expert Stephen Rickerby says the site will likely become a huge tourist attraction.

[Photo: Itinerant Tightwad]

Tags: ancient art, Classical history, Hellenistic paintings, jordan, Nabataeans, Petra, Petra World Heritage Site

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