Nov. 1, 2006 Artists in ancient Pompeii painted the town red 2,000 years ago with a brilliant crimson pigment that dominated many of the doomed city's wall paintings. Now scientists in Europe report why those paintings are undergoing a mysterious darkening.
Marine Cotte and co-authors studied samples of those unique red pigments from wall paintings in a house near Pompeii that was buried under ash during the infamous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
The paint, which used pigment made from red mercuric sulfide (called Cinnabar, HgS), was preserved under ash until excavations began in 1988. Since the 1990s, however, the brilliant red paintings have darkened and deteriorated.
In a report scheduled for the Nov. 1 issue of the ACS semi-monthly journal Analytical Chemistry, the authors describe how they used micro x-ray fluorescence and x-ray absorption spectroscopy at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility to determine how the darkening could happen.
The findings will help curators and restorers to develop better methods for preserving the brilliant artwork from ancient Rome, the report states.
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