Friday, September 17, 2010

Wine-Cult Cave Art Restored in Petra?

Revealed to the public in late August, the once sooty, 2,000-year-old face of a winged child now stares brightly from an ancient work of cave art—one of several that have recently been restored near Petra, Jordan's ancient rock-carved city and one of the "new seven wonders" of the world (pictures).

Filled with other Cupid-like figures, intertwined vines and flowers, and brightly colored birds, the wall paintings provide important new insights into the mysterious culture of the builders of Petra, the Nabataeans, said art conservator Lisa Shekede. The artwork, she added, suggests the cave was a refuge for a cult focused on the ancient Greek god of wine, Dionysus.

The art is "remarkable in the extent of its palette and the intricacies of its painting," added Shekede, who worked on the project for London's Courtauld Institute of Art. "The sheer quality of the painting is magical."

First discovered the 1980s, when the site was occupied by local Bedouin tribes, the ancient Greek-style artwork is "quite unique in Petra," said Aysar Akrawi, executive director of the Petra National Trust, which instigated the restoration work with the Courtauld Institute of Art.

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