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Archaeology’s Hidden Secrets
Ancient ivory carvings made by Phoenician artists some 3,000 years ago have long hidden a secret, even while being openly displayed in museums around the world: The sculptures were originally painted with colorful pigments, and some were decorated with gold.
Researchers based in France and Germany report chemical analyses showing that 8th-century B.C. Phoenician ivory artifacts bear metal traces that are invisible to the naked eye (Anal. Chem. 2013, DOI: 10.1021/ac4006167).
These metals are found in pigments commonly used in antiquity, such as the copper-based pigment Egyptian blue or the iron-based pigment hematite. The metals are not normally in ivory nor in the soil where the artifacts were long buried, explains Ina Reiche, a chemist at the Laboratory of Molecular & Structural Archaeology, in Paris. Read more.