Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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KIDANE Fanta Gebremariam, The Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger, Norway

The wall paintings in the monastery Church of Mariam Qorqor, are dated by art historians to belong to the second half of the thirteenth century, contemporary to the excavation of the basilica at the summit of Qorqor mountain. The local tradition claims a much earlier period for both events. The intricately depicted murals were executed on a calcareous sandstone walls and columns, some of them in combination with decorative reliefs. The ground preparatory layer of the paintings is not one based on earthen plaster, lime, or gypsum, but apparently, another sandy layer applied through the use of a binder medium. The pigments are also directly applied to the sandy layer preparation. This painting technique is not a customary type even compared to the wall paintings in other Churches in Gheralta locality that were similarly hewn out of sandstones. Presented herewith are the characterization of this painting technique and its comparison with those in the nearby Churches, other parts of the country, and beyond. The implications of the direct application of the painting layers to the sandstone substrate is also examined in terms of the conservation aspects of the wall paintings. The characterization of the painting materials and techniques of the murals was aided by the application of multiple analytical methods, in situ on the paintings and in the laboratory on samples. Such technical investigations, besides their relevance to well-informed conservation interventions, complement and support art historical studies.