Scientists using new technology have uncovered hidden colorful scenes in paintings of the ancient Etruscans, a group of people who thrived on the Italian peninsula about 2,500 years ago at a time before Rome became powerful.
For example, they found new details in a painting from “The Tomb of the Monkey” and underworld scenes in another work of art.
The Etruscans painted detailed paintings, but the passage of time means that many of them are now only partially visible and much of their color has been lost.
“The main issue is the huge loss of information on pleochroism [colors] The preserved paintings, with special consideration given to some specific colors due to their chemical-physical composition, are preserved paintings, ” said Gloria Adenolfi, a researcher at Pegaso Srl Archeologia Arte Archeometria (Research Institute), in a presentation made January 8 at the virtual joint annual conference. Meeting of the American Archaeological Institute and the Society for Classical Studies.
The fact that some colors survive better over time than others can give a distorted view of what old paintings looked like at the time they were painted, Adenolfi said. For example, some shades of green tend not to stay well, while red often lingers on. “Red oak appears to be more resistant, so sometimes the red color dominates and alters the correct perception of the original polychromy of the pictorial decoration,” said Adenolfi.
Uncover old paintings
To reveal the panels, the scientists used a technique called multi-light spectral extraction (MHX), which involves capturing dozens of images in the visible. Infrared And the ultraviolet Bands of light and manipulating them using statistical algorithms developed at the National Research Council of Italy in Pisa, said team member Vincenzo Palesci, Senior Researcher at the Research Council.
Balchi said that this technology can detect Egyptian blue, a color developed in ancient Egypt that “has a very specific response in a single spectral range.” The team also analyzed leftover remaining colors to help determine which colors were in the palette.
By combining MHX and color analysis, the team revealed fading scenes from ancient Etruscan paintings. Researchers unveiled several examples during the presentation, including details of paintings depicting the Etruscan underworld showing rocks, trees, and water.
In the monkey tomb, so named because a painting in the grave shows a monkey on a tree, researchers have uncovered details of a painting depicting a person. To the naked eye, the painting looks like a blur of red, but after the MHX and color analysis was completed, the painting clearly showed a person holding an object and details of their hair and face. The grave was discovered in the nineteenth century but now, with new technology, the painting is much clearer.
The team’s research is ongoing, and more panels may be unveiled in the future.
Originally published on Live Science.