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Ancient Decorative Painting of the Cimmerian Bosporus. From drawing to photography

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Investigations were carried out with the financial support of the Russian Research Foundation in Humanities and  Swiss National Science Foundation (project № 16-21-41002)


Monuments of the ancient Greek decorative painting of Сimmerian Bosporus (sometime situated in the region of the Kerch Strait) are among those pearls of art that were left to us by the Classic culture in the northern littoral of the Black Sea. Their exhaustive study is a current task for the national and world-wide archaeology. It is exactly these remains that allow us to evaluate most extensively the peculiarity of the development of the ancient culture in the northern Black Sea region and its adaptation to local artistic tastes while retaining its fundamental traditions. Not only the walls of rich Bosporan houses, but also the walls of crypts and sarcophagi, were covered with paintings. Painting motifs of funerary structures are of principal importance for studying religious notions of Bosporan inhabitants and, particularly, their ideas about the other world awaiting people beyond the threshold of death.

The majority of painted crypts in Сimmerian Bosporus found during excavations of the 19th century have not survived until now. We are able to make ideas on their construction and the character of their ornamentation only after the archive materials preserved. Numerous invaluable documents which recorded the decorative painting of Bosporus in the moment of its discovery are kept now in the Scientific Archives of the Institute for the History of Material Culture RAS (descriptions of tombs, their plans, watercolour copies of the paintings, drawings, photographs). Illustrations are a unique source of information about the lost or disturbed monuments. A considerable number of these monuments still are neither published nor familiar to a wide circle of researchers. The large size of some of the painted images, their age and the state of preservation limit the possibilities of their studying.

The international project ‘Ancient Painting of Сimmerian Bosporus. From graphic records to photography’ is focused on analysis of all the materials concerned, their systematization and creation of a computerized database of images. This principally innovative approach to studies of the ancient decorative painting of Bosporus undoubtedly will attract scientific attention to these remarkable monuments of the Classic antiquities and must elevate the source base on the ancient painting of Bosporus to a qualitatively new level. Analysis of archive materials must allow us to identify the methods of recording the paintings used by different researchers and photographers and to trace the evolution of these methods from the early 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. These studies are conducted by the Institute of the History of Material Culture in collaboration with the University of Lausanne under the support of the Swiss National Scientific Foundation and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.

Chiefs of the project:

Prof. Y. A. Vinogradov (IHMC RAS)

Prof. Michel Fuchs (IASA (UNIL))

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