Maya Blue

  • Dean E. Arnold
Living reference work entry

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Maya Blue is a unique blue pigment used on murals, pottery, sculpture, and codices in ancient Mesoamerica (e.g., the Madrid Codex, Buti et al., 2014). Unlike organic pigments, or those produced by minerals such as azurite or lapis lazuli, Maya Blue is a unique nanostructured clay-organic complex of the clay mineral palygorskite and indigo. It is resistant to dilute acids, alkalis, solvents, oxidants, reducing agents, moderate heat, and bio-corrosion, and its color has persisted for hundreds of years in one of the world’s harshest climates – the tropical lowlands of Mesoamerica.

Although found in many parts of Mesoamerica including Aztec central Mexico, Maya Blue was used predominantly by the Maya beginning in the Late Preclassic period from 300 B.C. to A.D. 300 (Vázquez de Agredos Pascual, Doménech Carbó, & Doménech Carbó, 2011) and persisted until the Spanish conquest. It is found most frequently in Maya Classic and Postclassic contexts such as Chichén Itzá (Fig. 1), Mayapán (Fig. 2),...


Ancient Source Spanish Conquest Burning Incense Channel Groove Palygorskite Clay 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Adjunct Curator of Latin American AnthropologyThe Field MuseumChicagoUSA