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Maya Used Blue to Decorate Buildings

Posted in Maya, News  by antiques

maya-used-blue-to-decorate-buildingsAn archaeologist reports the ingredients of “Maya Blue” pigment beloved by Central America’s ancients may have been widely mined, not traded as previously suggested.

In the Journal of Archeological Science report, Leslie Cecil of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, reports on “palygorskite” minerals, the chief ingredient in the bright and long-lasting pigment, found at the archaeological site of Ixlú in the Petén region of Guatemala.

Maya Blue was widely used by the classic Maya of Central America to decorate buildings and wares, making the cobalt color a signature of the pyramid-building culture.

Rather than emerging from one of seven mines already discovered in Mexico, the mineral traces back to a nearby site in Guatemala, a first sign that the color’s recipe was traded widely outside the Yucatan, and that the ritual burning required to manufacture the pigment also was used by Maya further south as well.

“Geochemical analyses demonstrate that the Ixlú pigment has the traditional Maya Blue structure, but it was manufactured from clays in central Petén, Guatemala,” says the study. “If Maya Blue was being used in the southern Maya lowlands as it was in the northern Maya lowlands, then it should not seem too shocking that some southern lowland Maya (perhaps ritual specialists) may have learned the technology and specialized knowledge behind the manufacture of Maya Blue.” —

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