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Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs Come to Life With Projection Mapping

Ancient Egyptians, like much of the ancient world, weren’t as in to beige and gray color schemes as their stone remnants would have us believe. Their lives were full of color, and their art and architecture reflected that. It’s only time and natural wear and tear that have erased the vibrancy of their works; a bright world faded over time. Fortunately technology can now let us appreciate just how things really looked all those thousand of years ago–safely, without any risk to the relics–with projection mapping.

The MedialLab at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has created something they call “Color The Temple,” a projection mapping display that is bringing to life the ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur with its original vibrant glory.

The temple, which sat “on an ancient site south of Aswan in the West Bank of the Nile, near the border between Egypt and the Sudan,” came to the MET in 1978, after it was gifted to the United States for helping to salvage it along with many others works in the 60s.

Projection mapping, which allows non-flat and non-white surfaces to be used as displays, allows the Temple to once again show off the colors that would have originally adorned it. The MediaLab team studied other temples, ancient Egyptian pieces from the MET’s own collection, the fashion of the day, and notes on what the temple’s interior walls looked like in 1906, all to determine just what the colors of this outside scene may have looked like.

You can read at the museum’s blog here about the entire process, including their research of the original techniques used for the paintings, how they then converted that into the digital display used now, and why they created an animated display rather than a static one.

Ultimately the scene they settled on shows Emperor Caeser Augustus, dressed as the Pharaoh, offering up wine to the gods Hathor and Horus, with them enlarging the glyphs that make up the dialogue of the scene. The animation of the display also highlights that the carved images were not as two-dimensional as they might appear otherwise.

Needless to say, this is extremely cool, but we are really just at the beginning of utilizing this technology for such purposes. Projection mapping on a much larger scale might one day make it so you can see and walk through the Coliseum in Rome as it once stood in all its glory, or to sail in the shadow of the Colossus of Rhodes. The ancient world will be ours to walk among, like a virtual time machine, without any of the moral qualms of time travel.

And in the meantime we get to have funny videos like this:

Projection mapping: walk like an Egyptian by walking with the Egyptians.

What works of art or structures from the ancient world would you be most excited to see come to life with projection mapping? Display your ideas in our comments section below.


Images: Diana Love/YouTube

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