Petra Cave Painting Discovery Attracts the Attention of Art Historians

June 17, 2011
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The carved city of Petra offers delights for those interested in travel to historic places, but it was highlighted for its value in art history last summer when British conservation specialists discovered an "exceptional" painting on a cave wall.

In a story by The Guardian, art historians determined that the paintings are Hellenistic, with such detail in the birds, flowers and insects portrayed that the experts were able to identify the species and attach a date. The paintings were created by the Nabataeans in the sixth century. Sacred Destinations says the Nabataeans had a monopoly on the spice trade with Egypt, China, Greece and India during this time.

Experts from the Courtauld Institute in London removed black grime that had accumulated over centuries of exposure to smoke, grease, graffiti and soot. They told The Guardian that they found a "staggeringly beautiful" painting beneath, which included symbols of the Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, as well as a demoiselle crane and a Palestine sunbird.

Art historians have expressed fascination with the artistic and technical quality of the paintings. The Guardian reports that they are "exceptional in their sophistication, extensive palette and luxurious materials."

Virtually no Hellenistic paintings remain, making the discovery in Petra particularly important for art historians worldwide.

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