At Ars Technica, Kiona N. Smith writes about sequential art discovered by archaeologists on the walls of a Roman tomb unearthed in northern Jordan in 2016, east of the Jordan River.
Experts say that a series of panels on the wall depict the founding of the city of Capitolias, which “was part of the Roman Empire but in a region still more heavily influenced by Greek culture.” From Smith:
The version of events painted on three walls of the 52-square-meter funerary chambers probably takes some poetic license with Capitolias’ history. It seems unlikely that the city’s founders literally attended a banquet of the Roman gods, serving refreshments while asking their advice on a good spot to build a city. In the first panel, on a wall to the left of the tomb’s entrance, larger-than-life Roman gods recline on couches while humans offer them food and drink. More likely, the city’s founders would have made offerings at a temple before construction began.
In the next panels, a city begins to emerge from the wilderness. Farmers with oxen gather fruit and tend vineyards in one panel, and Dionysus and other gods help woodcutters chop down trees in another.
Earlier this year, University of Iowa Assistant Professor Sarah E. Bond at Hyperallergic wrote about the origins of comics, “which depend on exactly how you define the medium.” She traces the use of graphic narratives to an era that took place long before Sunday newspapers came to be.
“The etymology of (comics) dates back to the use of comical cartoon strips inserted into American newspapers in the late 19th century,” reports Bond. “However, if comics are broadly construed as a series of artistic panels that form graphic narratives, one could argue for their birth as early as the cave paintings of Paleolithic France.”