Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ancient Greeks Waged War in their Jammies

New Discovery Shows Statues were Painted

August 24, 2010

Jesters at war!!! Warriors in jest!!! This changes everything. Forget about your images of the ancient Greeks as a stoic, hard-nosed, and anhedonic race! They liked to party with crazy colors and humorous hues!! Forget about the marble colored statues. Modern science has revealed to us the true color of these ancient Greeks. Twenty-first century man would be loathe to be seen in his pajamas at work, but not these ancient Greeks. Their colorful costumes prove that they were in fact a jovial, good-natured civilization, ready to pose for posterity in their night-clothes.

According to our friends at I09.com (well, I think they're our friends- I'm a pretty easy going guy who thinks life's too short to make enemies), ancient Greek statues were COLORED, I mean, painted (the Greeks were also apparently a quite promiscuous group that liked to experiment - but that's another post).

Anyway, according to our wanna-be friends:

Original Greek statues were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away. Although it seems impossible to think that anything could be left to discover after
thousands of years of wind, sun, sand, and art students, finding the long lost patterns on a piece of ancient Greek sculpture can be as easy as shining a lamp on it. A technique called ‘raking light' has been used to analyze art for a long time. A lamp is positioned carefully enough that the path of the light is almost parallel to the surface of the object. When used on paintings, this makes brushstrokes, grit, and dust obvious. On statues, the effect is more subtle. Brush-strokes are impossible to see, but because different paints wear off at different rates, the stone is raised in some places – protected from erosion by its cap of paint – and lowered in others. Elaborate patterns become visible.

Ultraviolet is also used to discern patterns. UV light makes many organic compounds fluoresce. Art dealers use UV lights to check if art has been touched up, since older paints have a lot of organic compounds and modern paints have relatively little. On ancient Greek statues, tiny fragments of pigment still left on the surface glow bright, illuminating more detailed patterns.

Once the pattern is mapped, there is still the problem of figuring out which paint colors to use. A series of dark blues will create a very different effect than gold and pink.

Infrared and X-ray spectroscopy can help researchers understand what the paints are made of, and how they looked all that time ago. Spectroscopy relies on the fact that atoms are picky when it comes to what kind of incoming energy they absorb. Certain materials will only accept certain wavelengths of light. Everything else they reflect. Spectroscopes send out a variety of wavelengths, like scouts into a foreign land. Inevitably, a few of these scouts do not come back. By noting which wavelengths are absorbed, scientists can determine what materials the substance is made of. Infrared helps determine organic compounds. X-rays, because of their higher energy level, don't stop for anything less than the heavier elements, like rocks and minerals. Together, researchers can determine approximately what color a millennia-old statue was painted.

The color? Always something tacky.

And now, back to BizarreStuff- I want to know what Venus de Milo was wearing.... maybe she was really like a hot Victoria's Secret mannequin....

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