The Black, The Red: A Study of Two Maya Mural Pigments from the Petén Region

Author(s): Heather Hurst; Caitlin O'Grady

Year: 2017


Black and red are foundational colors in Mesoamerican painting and scribal arts, often derived from easily accessible raw materials. Although their presence is ubiquitous, variations in chemistry and microscopic properties are data that tell a more nuanced story. This paper summarizes analysis of black and red colorants used in Maya wall paintings that contribute to observations regarding local traditions in manufacture, as well as individual variation in artistic practice. Reported results focus on the characterization of materials and methods used in mural manufacture at Cival, La Sufricaya, San Bartolo and Xultun (Guatemala), over a period of 1000 years. Multiple lines of evidence including stylistic, chemical and materials science analyses considered within the context of current preservation and observed degradation are integrated in order to understand raw materials used to produce colorants, as well as the methods of preparing wall substrates including plaster and paint application and/or finishing. Collaborative and inter-disciplinary research provided insight into artistic attribution, workshop practice and decision-making (raw material selection and processing, time allocation, etc.) in Maya mural painting from the Petén region.

Cite this Record

The Black, The Red: A Study of Two Maya Mural Pigments from the Petén Region. Heather Hurst, Caitlin O'Grady. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431426)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16857