Pigments in Peril: Degradation of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Murals

Author(s): Emily Shearin

Year: 2016


Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican murals are cultural representations of numerous civilizations, often mirroring the lifestyles, beliefs, rituals, and traditions of various peoples such as the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztecs. The pigments used to create these murals are highly susceptible to degradation. Degradation not only affects the appearance of the murals, but can result in the breakdown of the chemical structure of pigments causing flaking, powdering, and foundation issues. This project aims to help the preservation of these important cultural pieces, by studying the chemical processes that lie behind the degradation of frequently used pre-Columbian mural pigments. Understanding these chemical processes is a crucial step to identifying deterioration areas, measuring damage, delaying and/or stopping damage all together. With the pigments of Mesoamerican murals already identified, the next step was to look at the common chemical processes causing deterioration including: camera light, excavation damage, heat, UV exposure, water, and human touch. By measuring the time it takes these processes to occur, a time table was created, based off numerous degradation factors on multiple pigments, which has never been previously researched. The degradation scale created will aid in future studies of preservation, conservation, and restoration of prehistoric Mesoamerican mural pigments.

Cite this Record

Pigments in Peril: Degradation of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Murals. Emily Shearin. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404630)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Mural Pigments

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;