The colors seen and used today in fabrics, paintings and furniture are quite complex and varied, due to the mechanical abilities we have to mix color. It is also an expression of current education and knowledge.
But this was not true in ancient times. Today's attitude toward color as a thing of beauty developed around the Renaissance period. Before that, color was very basic and reflected early man's opinion of beauty, glory and religion.Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls, tombs and coffins and the Bushmen's drawings in South African caves were drawn and painted to worships gods, to record history and to identify the earth and the heavens. They were not painted for aesthetic reasons.
Actually, the colors reflected the knowledge and philosophy of that era. Simple colors such as red, gold, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white were all that were used, partially because of the ability to mix and blend colors was not as easy as it is today, but more so because color needed to be vigorous and brilliant to make the necessary statements.
Red, not pink or maroon, stood for mankind and represented fire. Only true blue - not shaded, nor tinted - could represent air and the hue of God. Black represented earth. White was used for water. Hence, all the elements were covered: earth, wind, fire, water.
It is interesting to note that virtually the same palette of colors has been found in all old civilizations including Africa, Asia Minor, Asia, Europe, the Mayans and Incas, both in North and South America.
Early decorators were simply concerned with practical matters in nature and in pleasing their gods. With the inundation of the choices we have today, sometimes it might seem the ancient way was better.