Once again, science and anthropology have worked together to resolve issues concerning the fascinating and brilliant pigment known as Maya Blue. Impervious to the chemical or physical effects of the elements, the pigment was applied in ceramics, sculpture and murals in Mesoamerica during the Classic and Postclassic periods (250-1520 AD), playing a central role in the practice of the ancient Mayan religion. This unusual blue paint was used for paint the victims of human sacrifices and the altars where they were sent.
For some time, scientists have known that the Maya Blue It is formed by a chemical combination of indigo and the clay mineral paligorskite. However, only now have researchers established a connection between contemporary indigenous knowledge and ancient sources of the mineral.
- Representation of Azul Maya
In a paper published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science on March 16, 2012, researchers from Wheaton College, the Museum of Field and Natural History, the United States Geological Survey, California State University Long Beach, and the Institution Smithsonian, demonstrated that the paligorskite component in some of the Maya Blue they came from mines in two places in the north of the Yucatan Peninsulain Mexico.
Research on the sources of paligorskite has been ongoing since late 1960. Through a combination of ethnographic research and mineralogical analysis, Dean E. Arnold, Professor of Anthropology at Wheaton College and now Adjunct Curator of Anthropology at the Field Museum, discovered that paligorskite was well known among Ticul artisans, Yucatan. These contemporary mayans use paligorskite as a key component for ceramics and prescribe the mineral for medical purposes. Indigenous knowledge goes beyond the sources of paligorskite: potters extract the mineral from two mines in Yucatan, one in Salacuim and the other near the city of Ticul at a location called Yo ’Sah Kab.
As part of his research, Arnold also observed Terminal Classic pottery (800-1000 AD) and other signs of an ancient settlement. This suggests that the mines were used by the Mayans as sources of paligorskite used in the Maya Blue. However, more evidence was needed to link today's mines with those of ancient mayans.
Between 1965 and 1997, Dean Arnold and Bruce E. Bohor of the United States Geological Survey collected 33 samples of the mineral from the Yucatan region. After mineralogical analyzes, it was possible to differentiate between paligorskite samples based on their composition, which means that paligorskite, within specific samples of Maya Blue, it could be traced to specific locations.
With funding from the National Geographic Society, Arnold and Bohor collected an additional 167 samples of paligorskite from five different locations in Yucatán in 2008. The analyzes of these samples were then compared with the analyzes of the pigment. Maya Blue found in the original pottery found at Chichen Itzá and Palenque, Yucatan. The material of Chichen Itza it was collected by E. H. Thompson and J. E. S. Thompson in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is kept in the Field Museum. These objects were analyzed by the museum's Fund for Elemental Analysis (EAF).
Analysis confirms that all samples of Azul Maya from the ancient Mayan place of Chichen Itza, were created with paligorskite derived from Sacalum, while the Azul Maya samples from Palenque could be from Salacuim, Yo ’Sah Kab, or another unknown source.
“Using innovative chemical sourcing techniques, we have unlocked data from collections held at the Field Museum for over 100 years”Says EAF director and Field Museum curator and head of Anthropology, Ryan williams. “The data resulting from the study shows the definitive evidence that Slacuim was a source of the paligorskite used in the Mayan Azul of Chichen Itzá.Williams adds.
Observing that the ancient Maya could have seen limited by technology And using these new data, lead author Arnold and his colleagues argue that ancient Maya sources of paligorskite were limited by available technology and the ancient landscape. Therefore, Sacaluim and Yo ’Sah Kab, due to its accessibility and size, would have been the main sources of paligorskite used by the ancient Mayans.
“Overall, this study shows the key benefits of scientific research carried out to unravel the mysteries of the key to ancient technology.”, Says the study participant and conservator of the Field Museum, Gary Feinman.
Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.