Ancient Egyptian Art – Art History

Painting from Ancient EgyptThese past few weeks, we’ve been discussing the historic art of ancient cultures. You can go here to read about ancient Andean art, or click here to read about the history of art in Australia.

Ancient Egypt is known as one of the most advanced civilizations in ancient history, from their technology to their art. But they weren’t always the most advanced. Today we’re going to take a look at the very earliest art produced by the people living along the banks of the Nile and see how they grew and developed.


The first people settled near the Nile around 5000 BC. They produced pottery and small handheld objects which were undecorated. This earliest art was primarily for functional use. One instance of these people creating wholly aesthetic art is in their burial practices. Each person was buried with a small clay figurine of a human figure. Perhaps these figures were made in the likenesses of gods or goddesses, or of the deceased themself.

Egypian Blacktop PotteryAround 4000 BC, the people living in what would become Egypt began decorating their pottery with black paint. This particular style of decoration is known as blacktop ware. It was around this time as well that they began to incorporate copper into their artwork and tools. Strings of beads have also been found dating to this period.

From 4000 to 3000 BC, a new style of pottery became popular: cross-line ware. This type of pottery was made with red clay and decorated with tight, straight white lines which criss-crossed over the surface. The culture along the Nile was already strong by this point and there is evidence of extensive trade between them and the Middle East and Asia. Relief style artwork from Mesopotamia began to find its way into Egyptian artwork.



Egyptian Cosmetic Palett

Around 3000 BC, the creation of cosmetic palettes drastically rose, which is an indication of the success of their society. It is a sign that a culture is well developed when they can afford to spend so much time on beauty and leisure. These cosmetic palettes were often decorated with abstract or geometric shapes or with animals, in a relief style. By this time, too, the basis for the Dynastic Period in Egyptian history was laid. There was a king and extravagant burial places for the monarchs.



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