Washington, Feb 8 : Scientists discovered traces of shiny mica while analyzing flakes of paint taken from the Rosalila temple in Copan, Honduras, which suggests that the ancient Mayans painted some of their ornate temples with mica to make them sparkle in the sun.ccording to a report in National Geographic News, the covering of sparkling paint likely gave the sacred site a dazzling appearance.
"The mica pigment would have had a lustrous effect," said Rosemary oodall, a doctoral student in physical sciences at Australia's Queensland University of Technology.
"Mica is used today in paints for that very purpose-to create a shimmering finish to the paint," she said. "The gleaming paint also appears to have been applied periodically, perhaps in honor of important anniversaries or ceremonial events," added Goodall.
According to Goodall, the mica used in the paint likely came from beyond the Maya realm.
"It appears that mica was available in what is now Guatemala. The Maya would have had to trade for something like that," she said.
The report has determined that the building was in use for one hundred years-a fact known because the Mayans dated the opening and closing ceremony of the building.
"It was repainted somewhere between 15 and 20 times, but mica was only used, I estimate, in every fourth or fifth repainting. It's not on every layer," said Goodall.
"More than likely there was something very significant about when they used it, if it was only used infrequently," she added.
Analysis of such materials used by the Maya offers an insight into their technology and knowledge exchange and trade networks.
"It gives us an insight into how people in the southern periphery of the Maya realm interacted with people in the more northern regions," said Goodall.
Because the Mayans had very regular calendar periods, the next step is to look at the core of the paint layers and see if the frequency of mica usage can be found out, said the researchers.
"We can find out the frequency of mica's use, which may give us an indication of whether or not it was applied to celebrate one of these period endings, or to mark some significant date," said Goodall.