Maya Blue Paint


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!

Via A Blog About History and LiveScience.

Image credit: Bonampak Murals. Copy. 692. Harvard University. Peabody Museum. ©Kathleen Cohen. Copy by Antonio Teleda in 1948.

Maya Tomb at Palenque Explored & Photographed for First Time

National Geographic recently published an article about a Maya tomb at Palenque, which was discovered in 1999. In late November, researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History entered the tomb for the first time. Last summer, NatGeo published photographs of the temple, which was explored remotely using a small camera (1.6 x 2.4 in.) pushed through a 6 in. hole.

Temple 20 at Palenque contains a royal tomb, well-preserved murals, 11 vessels, and pieces of jade and shell. Because the temple has been inaccessible for so long, its contents are well-preserved. At this point, researchers are not certain who the tomb belongs to.

Via A Blog About History

Images from National Geographic: Entrance to Temple 20, Palenque; “Snake Jaguar” King

Tomb of Lady K’abel, Maya Queen, Found in Guatemala

Archaeologists from Washington University in St. Louis have discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel in the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka’ in northern Petén, Guatemala. Lady K’abel was a seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord and is considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization.

Washington University reports:

A small, carved alabaster jar found in the burial chamber caused the archaeologists to conclude the tomb was that of Lady K’abel.

The white jar is carved as a conch shell, with a head and arm of an aged woman emerging from the opening. The depiction of the woman, mature with a lined face and a strand of hair in front of her ear, and four glyphs carved into the jar, point to the jar as belonging to K’abel.

For more information on the excavation and the site of the tomb, check out the news release here, which also contains a link to the full report by the archaeologists on the discovery.

Additionally, Lady K’abel is depicted on Stela 34 of El Perú, located at the Cleveland Art Museum. Her husband, K’inich Bahlam, is depicted on Stela 33.

Front Face of a Stela, 692, Mesoamerica, Southern Lowlands, Maya People. Cleveland Art Museum, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund, 1967.29.

Art Institute of Chicago Lecture: Ritual Mask from Teotihuacan

Curator Richard Townsend brings to life the splendor and pageantry of Teotihuacan, the largest city in the ancient Americas, as he reveals city plans, amazing architectural structures, and powerful ritual objects.

Next Thursday, October 11, the Art Institute of Chicago will present a lecture on Mesoamerican art from Teotihuacan in Fullerton Hall from 6–7 pm. The lecture is free with museum admission—and your UCID functions as your UChicago Arts Pass, providing free admission to the Art Institute of Chicago among other museums and cultural centers.

For more information, view the event page or check out the Art Institute’s collection of Mesoamerican art online.

Newly Discovered Maya Temple a “Gold Mine” of Information for Precolumbian Scholars

The Maya sun god as shark-man—one of his several guises on a newfound monument in Guatemala.

Deep in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle, archaeologists have unearthed an important Maya temple thought to be at least 1,600 years old. Distinguished by giant masked faces depicting the sun god, the “Temple of the Night Sun” at El Zotz holds great potential for helping researchers further their understanding of Early Classic Maya religious practices.

Project leader Stephen Houston of Brown University explains that since Maya culture closely linked the sun god with kingship and the sun with new beginnings, the temple’s emphasis on the sun suggests that the individual buried inside was El Zotz’s first king. Furthermore, the Maya considered the structure itself to be a living being, which propelled them to continuously add new layers to its exterior. Systematic mutilation of the masks’ noses, mouths, and eyes, Houston believes, can also be thought of as “deactivation” of those features: “It’s as if they’re turning the masks off in preparation for replicating them in subsequent layers … It’s not an act of disrespect. It’s quite the opposite.”

This discovery is newly relevant to the University of Chicago art history department, since Fall 2012 marks the welcoming of Assistant Professor Claudia Brittenham, who will instruct students in Precolumbian art. In preparation for her arrival, student catalogers and scanners at the Visual Resources Center have been hard at work digitizing images for Professor Brittenham’s classes and research. Be on the lookout for an abundance of new images relating to Precolumbian art set to be uploaded to LUNA by the end of the summer!

–Emilia Mickevicius

Via National Geographic.