Ancient Greece conjures up images of classical columns, great philosophers, gilded phalanx, and marble statues. The yellowed marble color of those statues has become synonymous with the majesty of the world’s first western civilization. However, new research is showing that the aged marble of those famous statues would look very unfamiliar to an ancient Greek.
Archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann has been on the cutting edge of the research that is debunking the myth behind the marble statues. Several research techniques were employed to identify the areas of the statutes that used to be painted and even suggested the colors they used to be.
The theory that bare marble was not the original color of the statues first arose when researchers noticed that certain areas of the statues were microscopically higher than other parts. This difference in height suggested that these areas were not exposed to the elements as much as the lower areas of the statue. Toolmarks were also more pronounced in the less weathered areas. Researchers determined that these areas must have been protected from the elements by some type of coating, and paint was the most likely answer.
Exposing the statutes to ultraviolet light showed areas of different organic material corresponding to pigments in use at the time. This allowed researchers to make an educated guess at what the statutes used to look like and the results were incredibly colorful.