Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Origins Of Maya Blue In Mexico

Date:
April 23, 2009
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
The ancient Maya civilization used a rare type of clay called “palygorskite” to produce Maya blue. Combining structural, morphological and geochemical methods, researchers have defined the features of palygorskite clay on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. These findings will make it possible to ascertain the origin of the materials used to produce this pigment, which survives both time and chemical and environmental elements.

Maya Blue pigment used in a mask.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain Image.

The ancient Maya civilisation used a rare type of clay called "palygorskite" to produce Maya blue. Combining structural, morphological and geochemical methods, Spanish researchers have defined the features of palygorskite clay on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. These findings will make it possible to ascertain the origin of the materials used to produce this pigment, which survives both time and chemical and environmental elements.

Related Articles


A Spanish research team has traced the route followed by the Maya to obtain palygorskite clay, one of the basic ingredients of Maya Blue. "Our main objective was to determine whether the Maya obtained this clay from one place in particular," co-author of the study Manuel Sánchez del Río, a physicist at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble (France), told SINC.

The team, including Mercedes Suárez, from the Geology Department of the University of Salamanca and Emilia García Romero, from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, analysed various samples of palygorskite clay on the Yucatan Peninsula to compare them to samples from other places. The results are available in the latest edition of Archaeometry.

Palygorskite clay has been used in Mesoamerica since ancient times. Numerous data suggest the Maya were aware of its properties and, what is more, this clay was closely related to socio-cultural aspects of the Mayan culture.

"Present day native communities on the Yucatan Peninsula are familiar with and use palygorskite clay for a variety of purposes, ranging from making candles on All Saints' Day and household and artistic pottery to remedies for mumps, stomach and pregnancy pains and dysentery," Sánchez del Río explained to SINC. Nowadays, modern pharmacology uses clays like palygorskite to produce anti-diarrhoea medicine, a remedy the Maya began to use more than a thousand years ago.

However, palygorskite was mostly used to make the Maya blue pigment, which is produced by mixing indigo, an organic dye obtained from the plant of the same name, with a base of palygorskite clay. The resulting compound is extraordinarily resistant to chemical and environmental elements.

Archaeological sites

The researchers found samples of high-purity palygorskite clay in several locations on the Yucatan Peninsula, in a 40 km radius of the well-known Maya archaeological site of Uxmal. Some of these locations are well documented, but others have been discovered for the first time during this expedition.

The fact that this clay was abundant among the samples collected confirms that the mineral is common on the peninsula.

Crystal-chemical analysis then enabled researchers to obtain the formula for the composition of Mayan palygorskite clay: (Si7.96Al0.07)O20 (Al1.59Fe3+0.20Mg2.25) (OH)2 (OH2)4Ca0.02Na0.02K0.04 4(H20).

These results will be useful for studying archaeological remains with Maya blue and to determine whether the palygorskite clay used in the pigment was taken from Uxmal or the surrounding area.

Maya Blue was invented between the 6th and the 8th Century and can be found in sculptures, fresco paintings, codices and pre-Columbian decorations across Mesoamerica, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. It was used during the colonial period to paint frescos in churches and convents. Maya blue was rediscovered in 1931 and scientists were baffled by the stability and persistence of this colour found on objects dating back to pre-Columbian times.

This thousand-year-old pigment, which has proven immune to the passage of time, erosion, biodegradation and modern solvents, is considered the forerunner of modern hybrid materials, compounds of organic and inorganic design with interesting properties for use in high technology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Origins Of Maya Blue In Mexico." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090420085049.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2009, April 23). Origins Of Maya Blue In Mexico. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090420085049.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Origins Of Maya Blue In Mexico." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090420085049.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) — Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) — A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) — A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) — Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins