The Mysterious Maya Blue or Azul Maya

Maya Blue or azul maya has been seen at several architectural locations from the ancient Mayan civilization including the archaeological site of Cacaxtla on the Mural de la batalla. Cacaxtla is a large palace with many vibrant colored murals in Mayan style. As one of the highlights of the ancient Mayan civilization this very gorgeous turquoise blue color only survived to be seen because of the chemical characteristics that made it possible and the composition.

 

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The chemical composition of the compound was determined by powder diffraction in the 1950s and was found to be a composite of palygorskite and indigo, most likely derived from the use of the leaves of the añil. The actual recipe to reproduce Maya Blue pigment was published in 1993 by a Mexican historian and chemist, Constantino Reyes-Valerio. The combination of different clays (palygorskite and montmorillonite), together with the use of the leaves of the añil and the actual process is described in Reyes-Valerio (1993). Reyes-Valerio’s contributions were possible due to his combined background of history and chemistry, through a thorough revision of primary texts (Sahagun, Hernandez. Jimenez and others), microscopic analysis of the mural paintings and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy.

 

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A warrior with Azul Maya on the background – en.wikipedia.org 

After the formula for the production was published in the book “De Bonampak al Templo Mayor: Historia del Azul Maya en Mesoamerica” there were many developments in the chemical analysis of the pigment in collaborations between Reyes-Valerio with European Scientists.

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A Mayan mask with still vibrant blue tiles – Ancient-tides.blogspot.com

A comprehensive study on the pigment which describes history, the experimental study techniques (Diffraction Studies, Infrared Spectroscopies, Raman, Optical Spectroscopies, Voltammetry, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Computer Modelling), the syntheses, properties and nature of maya blue and the research in relation with the Archaeological and Historical Contexts has been published in “Developments in Clay Science”.