Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I've blogged about using RAMAN spectroscopy to analyze ancient Mayan paint pigments here .

Professor Vandenabeele also used this method at another Mayan site in Yucatan. The little know temple complex of Ek'Balam which variously translates as 'Black Jaguar', Bright Star Jaguar' or 'Star Jaguar' is near the more famous Chichen Itza.

Thirty three samples were studied from room 23 of the acropolis, the brilliantly carved facade is shown in the image below.

These samples were analyzed using RAMAN spectroscopy and several pigments were identified.

Haematite (reddish brown), Calcite (white), Carbon (black), Cinnabar (red) and Indigo (blue).

Indigo is an inorganic dye obtained from the plant of the same name and combined with Palygorskite clay makes the famous "Maya Blue" pigment which was sacred to the Mayans and I'll bore you to tears about it in another post.


Jayne said...

Just the beautiful carvings on the temple and attention to detail in that mask alone is surely more newsworthy than the likes of that dippy bogan chick in Sydney!

River said...

Gosh that skull has very white teeth! I guess the Mayans were as skilled with dentistry as with everything else they did. (heh heh)
The temples and other artefacts are beautiful aren't they? I sometimes wish I could travel and see these things in person.

Brian Hughes said...

Isn't that Mickey Mouse's death mask?

Lad Litter said...

Fabulous, JahTeh. Those Mayans were one hell of a civilization. In ancient Rome, purple was the royal colour because of the rarity and therefore the cost of the pigment.

JahTeh said...

Jayne, there's still so much to be discovered in Central America. The dryness of Egypt saved their archaeology and the forest growth in Honduras and Guatamala kept the temples and cities hidden from treasure seekers.

River, don't be fooled. They were as vain as we are today and National Geo has photos of skulls with holes deliberately drilled in the teeth to hold sparkly gems.

Fleetwood, I thought it looked more like one of your cartoons.

LadLitter, It didn't take them long to stuff up their civilisation. Conspicuous consumption even in the jungle can change everything. Lime for the temple exteriors meant cutting down huge numbers of trees for fires. The nobles hunted the bigger animals for offerings and nearly wiped them out never mind the human heart ripping out stuff.

Helen said...

JT, you are a wonderous fount of knowledge and cool stuff in general.