Tracing Nebamun's "sculpted" painted wig onto transparent paper in the Eighteenth dynasty Theban Tomb 179

Aug 8, 2020

A copy or reproduction of an ancient Egyptian wall scene is called facsimile (from the Latin fac simile, "to make alike"). It differs from other forms of reproduction by attempting to replicate the source as accurately as possible in scale, color, condition, and other material qualities. It is not to be confused with tracing, which is the process of creating a direct 1:1 copy of the original by placing some transparent/opaque material onto the wall to be drawn on. ⠀ ⠀

Unfortunately, an intermediate material placed between the source and the observer masks certain details, a phenomenon eliminated by the Epigraphic Survey when developing their own documentation method. Interestingly, this problem was already tackled by Nina Davies in the 50s, who - once the bulk of the outlines were traced directly - put the tracing paper on a drawing board in front of the wall and added the details by hand, with constant comparison to the original. Naturally, for artists of Davies' caliber, this was much easier than repeatedly lifting the paper to check for details.⠀ ⠀

In TT 179, sheets of semi-transparent calque were used for the in situ tracing of Nebamun's paintings, a material dense enough for capturing the smallest details. Calque usually provides enough transparency to see well-preserved brushstrokes. Nonetheless, recording details, such as Nebamun's "sculpted" black wig, proved to be a real challenge and required the constant lifting of the paper.⠀ ⠀

Today, with the advance of computer technology, direct tracing of material off the wall (with it's often damaging effect to the scene) is not permitted, giving more room for alternate digital procedures. Nonetheless, transcribing and publishing ancient Egyptian art in an aesthetically pleasing and easily digestible form still remains a challenge...⠀

This post was originally released as part of digitalEPIGRAPHY's growing Instagram collection. If you'd like to see our latest photos as soon as we post them, please follow us on Instagram.

Back to Gallery

What to see next