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"This pigment has been stable for centuries in the hostile conditions of the jungle," said Eric Dooryhee at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. "We're trying to mimic it to make new materials."
Dooryhee and team of French physicists have spent years studying historical objects using X-rays. They shoot finely-tuned beams of X-rays from a synchrotron machine -- much stronger than a dental X-ray -- at these materials and look at the pattern of scattered X-rays coming out in order to determine the structure of the atoms inside.
The scientists have used this technology to examine Egyptian cosmetics, Roman pottery, and Renaissance paintings. They have recreated some of these ancient materials and are just beginning to learn how to borrow their strengths to make new modern "archeomimetic" materials that can stand the test of time.
Unlike most organic pigments, which tend to break down over time, the pigment Maya Blue is remarkably resistant -- not only to natural weathering, heat, and light, but also to strong acids and solvents in the laboratory.
Pre-Columbian Mesoamericans, who lived in Central America before the first Spaniards arrived, developed the pigment about 1700 years ago. Archaeologists rediscovered it in 1931 at the site of the ancient Mayan capitol Chichen Itza.
The Mayans used the pigment in art and in rituals to bring the rains. Recent evidence suggests they painted sacrificial objects and human victims blue and threw them down a deep natural well called the Sacred Cenote, thought to be the home of the rain god Chaak.
The pigment was made by burning incense made from tree resin and using the heat to cook a mixture of indigo plants and a type of clay called palygorskite. A bowl retrieved from the Sacred Cenote revealed traces of all of these materials, each of which was considered to be a healing substance by the Mayans.
"By offering incense to Chaak, they were combining two healing components," said Dean Arnold, an anthropologist at Wheaton College in Ill. who examined the bowl. "This was ritually significant because the rain healed their land."
Originally posted by zroth
reply to post by anon72
The Mayans were awesome. I wish science would humble itslef before some true masters of nature and astronomy more often.
These Mayans were not the savages we are led to believe.
A recent theory is that mayans used pools to watch the stars because the reflection was more accurate than looking up at them. That takes way more understanding that our limited twitter and reality TV brains use these days.
Originally posted by camaro68ss
ummm mayans were savages.... they threw people into pit holes and cut there heads off for the goods. kind of like a peaceful Religion i know that starts with a Is and ends in a lam.