Ultraviolet light reveals how ancient Greek statues really looked
2010-08-25 0:00

By Esther Inglis-Arkell | io9.com



Original Greek statues were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away. Find out how shining a light on the statues can be all that’s required to see them as they were thousands of years ago.

Although it seems impossible to think that anything could be left to discover after thousands of years of wind, sun, sand, and art students, finding the long lost patterns on a piece of ancient Greek sculpture can be as easy as shining a lamp on it. A technique called ‘raking light’ has been used to analyze art for a long time. A lamp is positioned carefully enough that the path of the light is almost parallel to the surface of the object. When used on paintings, this makes brushstrokes, grit, and dust obvious. On statues, the effect is more subtle. Brush-strokes are impossible to see, but because different paints wear off at different rates, the stone is raised in some places – protected from erosion by its cap of paint – and lowered in others. Elaborate patterns become visible.

Ultraviolet is also used to discern patterns. UV light makes many organic compounds fluoresce. Art dealers use UV lights to check if art has been touched up, since older paints have a lot of organic compounds and modern paints have relatively little. On ancient Greek statues, tiny fragments of pigment still left on the surface glow bright, illuminating more detailed patterns.

Once the pattern is mapped, there is still the problem of figuring out which paint colors to use. A series of dark blues will create a very different effect than gold and pink. Even if enough pigment is left over so that the naked eye can make out a color, a few thousand years can really change a statue’s complexion. There’s no reason to think that color seen today would be anything like the hues the statues were originally painted.

There is a way around this dilemma. The colors may fade over time, but the original materials – plant and animal-derived pigments, crushed stones or shells – still look the same today as they did thousands of years ago. This can also be discovered using light.

Infrared and X-ray spectroscopy can help researchers understand what the paints are made of, and how they looked all that time ago. Spectroscopy relies on the fact that atoms are picky when it comes to what kind of incoming energy they absorb. Certain materials will only accept certain wavelengths of light. Everything else they reflect. Spectroscopes send out a variety of wavelengths, like scouts into a foreign land. Inevitably, a few of these scouts do not come back. By noting which wavelengths are absorbed, scientists can determine what materials the substance is made of. Infrared helps determine organic compounds. X-rays, because of their higher energy level, don’t stop for anything less than the heavier elements, like rocks and minerals. Together, researchers can determine approximately what color a millennia-old statue was painted.
...




Read the full article at: io9.com






Related Articles
True Colors - Smithsonianmag.com
Smithsonian.com Photo Gallery - True Colors (Images)
A 26-foot-tall Anubis Statue Installed at Denver International Airport
Colossal statue of Thoth discovered at temple of Amenhotep III in Luxor
Statues Prompt ’Suicide’ Emergency Calls
Ancient figurines were toys not mother goddess statues
Greek Fisherman Nets Ancient Statue
6th Century Buddha Statue Found In Swedish Viking Hoard
Huge statue of Roman ruler found


Latest News from our Front Page

Hackers Leak Info on 9,372 DHS Employees
2016-02-08 22:30
Homeland Security claims there is no indication that any breach of sensitive or personally identifiable information occurred Hackers released the names, positions, phone numbers and email addresses of more than 20,000 alleged FBI employees Monday only hours after leaking similar data from more than 9,000 people at the DHS. The group claiming responsibility, known as “DotGovs,” first alerted Infowars to the alleged ...
Gyms, Wikipedia, & Anti-White Racism
2016-02-08 22:16
A media-generated “uproar” following the innocent renaming of a River Falls, Wisconsin, school gym, and the blatant manipulation of Wikipedia, have served as the latest examples of the ongoing anti-white racism which is becoming endemic in society at large. As reported in the River Falls Journal, the Meyer Middle School in River Falls, Wisconsin, needed a new fitness center. To this ...
Pegida's Multi - Culti (state) Agenda!
2016-02-08 4:49
This guy raises some very interesting points regarding the recent PEGIDA launch in the UK and around Europe. Make sure to check out the videos below. The focus on the criticism descends into a Nazi accusation contest. "No no THEY are the REAL Nazi's." Pegida UK is fronted by Tommy Robinson, Paul Weston and Anne Marie Waters. They held a demo in ...
Sweden plans to expel up to 80,000 asylum-seekers (that didn't seek asylum)
2016-02-08 3:58
Enrichment Sweden intends to expel up to 80,000 migrants who arrived in 2015 and whose application for asylum has been rejected, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said Wednesday. Ed: Wait, so they are in the country despite being rejected asylum? How did that happen and who let them in then? "We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000," the ...
What Happened to Roosh and Why Did the International Media Run With the "Pro-Rape" Allegation Lie?
2016-02-08 1:40
In the past few days there has been a slew of articles coming out of the garbage pile that is the mainstream media, detailing how "Roosh V" of Return of Kings, not only is a "Pro-rapist," but how he also was going to teach men how to rape, at their planned international meetups. Roosh did a press conference in Washington DC, ...
More News »