Chemical analysis shows that the ancient Peruvian Pachacamac idol was once painted in many shades

The true colors of Pachacamac Idol are finally revealed because chemical analysis shows that the ancient Peruvian wooden statue was once painted in many shades

  • The idol was found in Pachacamac, an archaeological site 19 miles south of Lima
  • Experts found red spots on the idol not cinnabar but blood
  • Evidence was also found of white paint on his teeth and yellow on headdresses
  • Carbon dating suggests that the idol was carved in wood around 760–766 AD

The true colors of the sacred Pachacamac idol from ancient Peru have been revealed because a chemical analysis has shown that the statue is painted in many shades.

The idol is a symbolic carved wooden statue from the archaeological complex of Pachacamac that lies 31 kilometers south of Lima.

Pachacamac was the most important coastal reserve on the coast during the 15th to 16th centuries.

The idol was reportedly damaged in 1533 during the Spanish conquest of the region, and the full details of its antiquity were unclear.

Now researchers have unlocked the mystery of the red color of the wooden idol using non-invasive and non-destructive analysis.

They discovered that red was not the only color on the piece of wood – white on the teeth of one figure and yellow on some headdresses.

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The true colors of the sacred Pachacamac idol from ancient Peru have been revealed because a chemical analysis has shown that the statue was painted in many shades

The true colors of the sacred Pachacamac idol from ancient Peru have been revealed because a chemical analysis has shown that the statue was painted in many shades

Researchers discovered that the red color of the idol was not blood, but mercury from cinnabar – a mineral that has been known in that region for over 2,000 years.

Cinnabar springs in the Andes can be found about 248 miles (400 kilometers) from Pachacamac.

The idol must therefore have been intentionally painted to show economic and political power, by carrying a pigment from a distant region, although others were available on the site, the team argues.

In their research, archaeologist Marcela Sepulveda from the University of Tarapaca, Chile and colleagues chemically analyzed a wood sample of the idol.

With the help of carbon dating, the researchers were also able to determine that the wood was felled around 760–766 AD – and probably felled too.

This suggests that the statue was worshiped for nearly 700 years before the Spanish conquest, the suit concluded.

The idol is a symbolic carved wooden statue from the archaeological complex of Pachacamac that lies 31 kilometers south of Lima. Pachacamac was the most important coastal reserve on the coast during the 15th to 16th centuries

The idol is a symbolic carved wooden statue from the archaeological complex of Pachacamac that lies 31 kilometers south of Lima. Pachacamac was the most important coastal reserve on the coast during the 15th to 16th centuries

The idol is a symbolic carved wooden statue from the archaeological complex of Pachacamac that lies 31 kilometers south of Lima. Pachacamac was the most important coastal reserve on the coast during the 15th to 16th centuries

Researchers discovered that the red color on the idol (highlighted above) was not blood, but mercury from cinnabar - a mineral that has been known in that region for over 2,000 years

Researchers discovered that the red color on the idol (highlighted above) was not blood, but mercury from cinnabar - a mineral that has been known in that region for over 2,000 years

Researchers discovered that the red color on the idol (highlighted above) was not blood, but mercury from cinnabar – a mineral that has been known in that region for over 2,000 years

“This is where polychromy of the so-called Pachacamac Idol is demonstrated, including the presence of cinnabar,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

“The unpublished chemical results obtained in this study show an exceptionally colorful palette for a venerated and sacred wooden statue that has been preserved for nearly 700 years.”

This, she added, demonstrates “the meaning of the idol for those who worshiped it.”

The idol was reportedly damaged in 1533 during the Spanish conquest of the region, and the full details of antiquity are unclear

The idol was reportedly damaged in 1533 during the Spanish conquest of the region, and the full details of antiquity are unclear

The idol was reportedly damaged in 1533 during the Spanish conquest of the region, and the full details of antiquity are unclear

The ancient societies of Africa, Asia, and Europe mostly adorned images and other objects of worship in colors, the researchers noted.

“The polychromy revealed in the so-called Pachacamac Idol provides evidence of a similar practice and adds a new material dimension to cult and pilgrimage in the Andes region,” she added.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The idol is a symbolic carved wooden statue from the archaeological complex of Pachacamac that lies 31 kilometers south of Lima. Pachacamac was the most important coastal reserve on the coast during the 15th to 16th centuries

The idol is a symbolic carved wooden statue from the archaeological complex of Pachacamac that lies 31 kilometers south of Lima. Pachacamac was the most important coastal reserve on the coast during the 15th to 16th centuries

The idol is a symbolic carved wooden statue from the archaeological complex of Pachacamac that lies 31 kilometers south of Lima. Pachacamac was the most important coastal reserve on the coast during the 15th to 16th centuries

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