Around 800 AD, the ancient Mayas started to use a strange blue pigment in their artwork. What was Maya Blue?
The Mysterious Origin of Maya Blue?
Maya Blue was a unique, weather resistant, blue pigment used by ancient pre-Columbian cultures such as the Maya. For many years, we’ve known Maya Blue consisted of indigo and a magnesium aluminum phyllosilicate known as palygorskite. But like Phoenicia’s famous Tyrian Purple, the sources of those materials have long remained a mystery…until now.
Recent research has identified at least two sources of the palygorskite. They originated from mines located in the northern half of the Yucatán Peninsula. Here’s more on the origin of Maya Blue from Archaeology News Network:
For some time, scientists have known that Maya Blue is formed through the chemical combination of indigo and the clay mineral palygorskite. Only now, however, have researchers established a link between contemporary indigenous knowledge and ancient sources of the mineral.
In a paper published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science on March 16, 2012, researchers from Wheaton College, The Field Museum of Natural History, the United States Geological Survey, California State University of Long Beach, and the Smithsonian Institution, demonstrated that the palygorskite component in some of the Maya Blue samples came from mines in two locations in Mexico’s northern Yucatan Peninsula…