Maya painters used a blue paint that proved to be very durable—its hue remains vivid today—on murals, ceramics, and in their codices and manuscripts. While the ingredients of the blue paint have been known for years, scientists in Spain recently discovered that the method of preparation “cooked” the mixture of pigments and clay to stabilize the paint.
Scientists have long known the two chief ingredients of the intense blue pigment: indigo, a plant dye that’s used today to color denim; and palygorskite, a type of clay. But how the Maya cooked up the unfading paint remained a mystery. Now Spanish researchers report that they found traces of another pigment in Maya Blue, which they say gives clues about how the color was made.
“We detected a second pigment in the samples, dehydroindigo, which must have formed through oxidation of the indigo when it underwent exposure to the heat that is required to prepare Maya Blue,” Antonio Doménech, a researcher from the University of Valencia, said in a statement.
The VRC is often adding new groups Mayan and Mesoamerican images to our LUNA database, so be sure to check it out our resources for murals, pottery, and more!
Image credit: Bonampak Murals. Copy. 692. Harvard University. Peabody Museum. ©Kathleen Cohen. Copy by Antonio Teleda in 1948.