How Mayan Temples Glittered

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Rosemary Goodall, of Queensland University of Technology, has analysed paint from temple sculptures at the Mayan city of Copan and found that the builders used mica to make the buildings glitter in the sun. The mica was applied over the red paint of stucco masks on the corners of Copan’s well-preserved Rosalila temple, built in AD 400. Using an infrared analysis technique, called FTIR-ATR spectral imaging, which has not been used in archaeology before, Rosemary Goodall was able to find mineral ‘signatures’ in paint samples only millimetres in size. ‘The Rosalila would have been one of the highest buildings of the valley in its time, built by the Maya ruler to exhibit his power and impress his subjects’, Rosemary Goodall said. ‘I am sure that when the sun hit it, it must have sparkled. It must have had the most amazing appearance’.

This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 28. Click here to subscribe

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