Study of the colors of the cave paintings of Inkaterra, in Machu Picchu

Study of the colors of the cave paintings of Inkaterra, in Machu Picchu


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The paintings they represent a magnificent expression of the scenes of the culture of ancient everyday life in graphic form. For decades, scientists have used different analytical techniques to characterize the pigments present in the pictographs of these rocky shelters, to find out their origin and learn more about these peoples.

An example are Inkaterra cave paintings, located on land that belongs to the Hotel Machu Picchu Pueblo complex (Peru), inside the Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu.

His drawings are composed of a large number of geometric pictograms and represent the daily life of the natives of the area.

The same rock that served as a support for the paintings could also have a religious and sacred meaning, which would imply that the people of the area visited the place at certain times of the year to celebrate ceremonies and deposit offerings.

Analysis of the cave paintings of Inkaterra

Thanks to the collaboration between the Grupo IBeA-Analytical Chemistry of the University of the Basque Country (UPV / EHU) and the Decentralized Directorate of Culture of Cuzco of the Ministry of Culture of Peru, a team of scientists analyzed the cave paintings of Inkaterra. This collaboration began in 2014 and is still ongoing today.

“Within this international team we are developing different studies related to the state of conservation of the archaeological city of Machu Picchu. In addition to the cave paintings - present in Inkaterra, as well as others along the Inka trail, within the archaeological park - biodeterioration studies are also being carried out on various monuments of the citadel, and the influence of the environment rain, air and soil) on the state of conservation of the stone material of the archaeological city ”, he explains to Sync Hector Morillas, research professor at the UPV / EHU and main author of this work published in the journal Microchemical Journal.

To know how the natives of Machu Picchu painted and sketched the passages of their daily life, analyzed the paintings using a combination of two techniques: by Raman spectroscopy and thanks to a scanning electron microscope coupled to an energy dispersive spectrometer.

"This way we were able to learn about the molecular and elemental aspects of the composition of the rock substrate and the different pigments used to create the visible pictograms of Inkaterra's rock shelter," adds the scientist.

They analyzed black, red and orange pigments, in which they detected charcoal, hematite and beta-carotene respectively.

The orange color is not the original in the Inkaterra paintings

The analysis revealed that not all colors were originally as we see them now. For example, the orange was not in the original painting, but is due to colonizations of microorganisms favored by the climatic conditions of the area, explains Morillas.

Scientists now know that for red decorations Hematite pigments were used that could come from the red ocher extracted from the soils.

Black colors were achieved thanks to charcoal, "Which could have been obtained after burning some type of organic material, such as wood," says the researcher.

Finally, another orange color over geometric circles it was the one that revealed the possible presence of a type of algae with a biopigment, beta-carotene, which "was falsifying the presence of this color", concludes the researcher.

Via Sinc Agency

After studying History at the University and after many previous tests, Red Historia was born, a project that emerged as a means of dissemination where you can find the most important news about archeology, history and humanities, as well as articles of interest, curiosities and much more. In short, a meeting point for everyone where they can share information and continue learning.


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