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Abstract

Vermillion has been shown to be useful in preserving human bones from 5000 years ago. Remarkably well-preserved human bones have been found in the dolmenic burial 'La Velilla' in Osorno (Palencia, Spain), carefully covered by pulverized cinnabar (vermillion) which ensured their preservation even in non-favorable climatic conditions. We believe the red powder was deliberately deposited for preservative use because no cinnabar mine is to be found within 160 km, because of the large amount (hundreds of kilograms) used, and because its composition, red mercuric sulphide, is similar to that of preparations used in technical embalming. This finding pushes back the data of the use of mercury ore for preservation by four millennia in South America, and by at least one millennium in the Old World. Chemical and thermal analyses of vermillion in La Velilla have demonstrated its great purity and shown that the cinnabar was pulverized and washed (but not heated), producing a bright red-orange tone.
... The choice of one or the other would depend on the intended purpose of the pigmentation, given that their properties and effects are very different (Delibes de Castro, 2000). Their joint use has been documented in the tombs of 'Alberite I ' and 'Montelirio' in Cádiz and Seville, respectively, or 'La Velilla' in Osorno, Palencia (Delibes de Castro, 2000, Martín-Gil, et al., 1995, Martín-Gil, et al., 1994, Zapatero Magdaleno and Delibes de Castro, 1996, although "the reds associated with the corpses and funerary floors are mostly made of cinnabar, a foreign raw material in most of the known cases" [tr.] (Bueno Ramírez, et al., 2020). ...
... Several hypotheses attempt to explain the presence of cinnabar. As it appears mixed with ochre and clay, it may be regarded as a suitable material for embalming or shrouding rituals (Martín-Gil, et al., 1995, Martín-Gil, et al., 1994, acting as an antiseptic to preserve the body (Delibes de Castro, 2000), although the possibility that its appearance in certain bones and different anatomical areas could have been transferred from the clothing or certain elements of adornment cannot be totally ruled out (Delibes de Castro, 2000, López Padilla, et al., 2012. Its Table 3 Multielement composition (in %) of red-powder sprinkled soil from the burial located in sector 2. use has even been proposed as an indicator of the end of the burial activity, as a 'closure' (Blanco Vázquez and Carrocera Fernández, 2013). ...
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The appearance of red pigments in prehistoric burial sites is frequent. In the study presented herein, the composition and provenance of the pigment sprinkled in a burial dated between the Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic periods in the Cueva de la Sierra, in Campodarbe (Huesca, Spain), were characterized through X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, X-ray powder diffraction, and sulfur (δ 34 S) isotope analysis. The chemical composition of the pigment used in the burial could be unequivocally established as cinnabar, and the S isotope signature pointed to an origin in the ores of the Northwestern Iberian Peninsula, ca. 500 km far from the burial site, suggesting an alternative provenance to the Almadén outcrop, the main cinnabar source in the Iberian Peninsula. The presence of cinnabar in the Ebro valley, on the southern slope of the Central Pyrenees, forces us to rethink the complex processes of interaction between communities that populated the north of the Iberian Peninsula during the final moments of the 4th millennium BC.
... As for the conservative properties, cinnabar can delay the decomposition of the body thanks to its powerful bactericide and insecticide properties (Martín-Gil et al. 1995;Cervini-Silva et al. 2013). This intent is usually highlighted by the location of burials in underground environments and/or far from sunlight and humidity. ...
... Hundreds of pure and finely grained kilograms of cinnabar were covering human bones. Martín-Gil et al. 1995 8. Cueva de los Murciélagos (Cordoba). Cinnabar was found in a Neolithic container. ...
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This article summarises the history of cinnabar, from its first uses in burials to modern oils on canvas. After a brief introduction on mercury and contamination issues, the article gets to the heart of the topic. First, mercury-based minerals significant for studying pigments, i.e. cinnabar, metacinnabar, hypercinnabar and calomel, are presented. Structural information and properties precede an overview of the geographic distribution of cinnabar deposits. The following section addresses the multiple uses of cinnabar, divided into funerary use, decorative use, lustre and Chinese lacquer production. The use of cinnabar for writing (ink), medicine and cosmetics is briefly described, and a shortlist of uncommon finds is further provided. The following section approaches inherent but less known topics such as cinnabar procurement, trade, production technology, application and alteration. An entire section is dedicated to calomel before concluding with an overview of the analytical methods for the characterisation and provenance investigation of cinnabar.
... An important pigment for anthropologist and archaeologist, cinnabar has been mined and used as a precious pigment by many cultures since prehistory for ritual/religious blessing, burial ceremony, magic, medical therapy, cave and body painting, artefacts decorating, cosmetic, etc. (Gajić-Kvaščev et al., 2012;Martín-Gil et al., 1995). Cinnabar is often accompanied in nature with native mercury. ...
... Cinnabar is often accompanied in nature with native mercury. It is also the main ore/source for refining/production of metallic mercury (Gettens et al., 1972;Martín-Gil et al., 1995;Momenzadeh et al., 2016). Depending on the geological province, other minerals can be found with cinnabar. ...
Article
The study was undertaken to explore the widespread use of colourants, raw materials and technology of colour production to illuminate Qur’ān manuscripts in the Qājār period, Iran (1789–1925 C.E.). SEM-EDX and µ-Raman spectroscopy were employed as non-invasive/non-destructive complementary techniques. The SEM-BSE images contribute to distinguishing between organic/inorganic origin of colourants and the EDX to identify gilding composition as well as providing a short-list of potential colourants to be confirmed by µ-Raman spectroscopy as a compound-specific technique. The results show the most identified colourants are mineral-based pigment; these include carbon black, ultramarine, Prussian blue, vermillion, and red lead. Brass, pure gold, and a gold-silver alloy were detected as metallic ink/paint as gilding. We hypothesise the red diacritic in S01 have organic nature with an anthraquinone derivative structure, but we were unable to specifically identify it. We also hypothesise the yellow constituents in S02 might contain saffron and lead-containing compound(s) as a thickening agent and/or chemical drier. Our findings were in agreement with information available in Persian and English bibliographical sources on Iranian painting and illuminated manuscripts of the Qājār period. Further analysis by SR-µFTIR, FORS, SERS and HPLC is required to confirm our assumption and to complete colourant identification.
... The earliest material testimonies of the use of cinnabar in burials and symbolic contexts, mural paintings and ceramics date back to the Neolithic. For instance, a Neolithic burial (3000 BC) of Palencia (Spain) is claimed to be among the first evidence of the deliberate use of cinnabar in human records, while Argaric Culture tombs (southeast Spain, 2200-1500 BC) are also known for the presence of cinnabar [1]. In addition, the earliest examples of the use of cinnabar as a pigment in wall paintings and ceramics are those of the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük (8000-7000 BC, Turkey) [2,3]. ...
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This study presents a non-invasive in situ methodology based on the use of portable elemental (energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, EDXRF) and molecular (Raman spectroscopy) spectroscopic-based instrumentation as a tool to obtain preliminary information to assist subsequent provenance studies of archaeological cinnabar pigments in the laboratory. In this work, six cinnabar mineral ores, extracted from the Almadén mining district and an original raw pigment coming from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii have been analyzed. As the detection capacities and spectral resolution of the portable instruments are usually poorer than the equivalent benchtop equipment, a comparative study of the in-situ and laboratory results was conducted. Afterward, chemometric data treatment was performed considering both the molecular and elemental information. According to the elemental results, it was not possible to find a strong concordance between the cinnabar ores and the pigment from Pompeii, suggesting the need for additional methodologies in the laboratory (isotope ratio analysis) to complete a proper provenance study. However, this approach was useful to classify the ores according to their mineralogical differences. Therefore, this methodology could be proposed as a useful tool to conduct a representative sampling of the cinnabar mineral ores to be considered in a provenance study of archaeological cinnabar pigments.
... Lipstick mainly consists of oils (typically 40 %-70 %), coloring agents (0.5 %-8 %), waxes (8 %-15 %), and components like perfumes, emollients, antioxidants, and preservatives in minor quantities [11][12][13]. Various manufacturers of lipsticks have different percentage compositions [14][15][16]. Similarly, due to the extensive use and high demand for vermilion, it is produced locally by many local manufacturers in both powders as well as in liquid form. ...
Article
Though many offenders are aware of the trail evidence typically used in forensic settings, there is a low possibility of translocation developing during a crime. Conventional evidence is rarely left at a crime scene, thus unconventional potential evidence must be taken into consideration. Lipstick and vermilion stains from cosmetics could be transferred from a criminal, crime scene, or victim. Perpetrators frequently aren't aware that such evidence could be utilized to trace a suspect to a crime scene because it's common for these cosmetic particles to be conveyed during a near-range individual assault and left out undetected. In this study, ten lipstick and ten vermilion color samples which are prominently found in crime scenes were analyzed by (SEM-EDS) scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy to identify particles that might have been transferred during the close-quarters fight. EDS data shows constituents of the samples taken which can be further used as a data set to match such colored cosmetics samples in crime scenes. Mass percentage of C, O, Hg, As, Pb, Cr, Fe, Mg, Si, and Co shows variation in all the samples, which provide uniqueness and served as a key factor in identification.
... First, application of cinnabar to the head appears to have been reserved mainly for males. Throughout history cinnabar was of special importance in many cultures for its bright red colour, resistance to fading over time and its hypnotic and sedative properties when heated [94][95][96][97][98] . The special value of cinnabar is also suggested 103 . ...
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The cultural use of pigments in human societies is associated with ritual activities and the creation of social memory. Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Turkey, 7100–5950 cal BC) provides a unique case study for the exploration of links between pigments in burials, demographic data and colourants in contemporary architectural contexts. This study presents the first combined analysis of funerary and architectural evidence of pigment use in Neolithic Anatolia and discusses the possible social processes underlying the observed statistical patterns. Results reveal that pigments were either applied directly to the deceased or included in the grave as a burial association. The most commonly used pigment was red ochre. Cinnabar was mainly applied to males and blue/green pigment was associated with females. A correlation was found between the number of buried individuals and the number of painted layers in the buildings. Mortuary practices seem to have followed specific selection processes independent of sex and age-at-death of the deceased. This study offers new insights about the social factors involved in pigment use in this community, and contributes to the interpretation of funerary practices in Neolithic Anatolia. Specifically, it suggests that visual expression, ritual performance and symbolic associations were elements of shared long-term socio-cultural practices.
... , 2019), e. g. in the dolmen of La Velilla (Palencia, Spain:Martín-Gil et al. 1995) and in the megalithic tomb (passage grave) of Santa Rita (Cacela, Portugal:Inácio et al. 2010Inácio et al. , 2012. Later evidence of its use for funerary rituals was found in several monuments, such as the Chalcolithic hypogeum of Carrer Paris (Barcelona, Spain: Gómez-Merino etTrab. ...
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The recent discovery and archaeological excavation of two funerary structures located at Horta do Pinheiro 5 (south of Portugal) shed new light on the early times of the Southwestern Middle Bronze Age. These structures, a pit and a hypogeum, both associated with another pit, deepen our knowledge about the funerary rituals practiced at that time. Grave goods recorded in both structures stand out for their opulent and luxurious character. Archaeometric analyses made possible to identify the raw materials with which the grave goods were manufactured. Two bracelets, one in each structure, are made of ivory, one from Asian elephant and the other from African elephant. The dagger recovered in the hypogeum has an arsenical copper blade with silver rivets. Its handle and the pommel are covered with silver and gold also forms part of the pommel. In the hypogeum chamber reddish spots adhering to both grave goods and bones are identified as cinnabar. The integration and interpretation of these imported prestige elements, their dating by radiocarbon, as well as the search for parallels for them, are the object of analysis and discussion.
... The widespread and pervasive value of cinnabar as a crosscultural phenomenon is revealed by its geographic distribution. As well as in Europe, this raw material has also been found in association with human burials in Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Japan, while at the same time it was highly appreciated by early alchemists in ancient China (Needham, 1976;Yamada et al., 1995;Martín Gil et al., 1995;Cooke et al., 2009Cooke et al., , 2013Hunt-Ortiz et al., 2011;Bolio Zapata et al., 2012;Domingo et al., 2012;Gajić-Kvaščev et al., 2012;Trifonov et al., 2012;Rogerio-Candelera et al., 2013;Ávila et al., 2014;García Sanjuán et al., 2016;Ochoa-Lugo et al., 2017;Arriaza et al., 2018;Cervini-Silva et al., 2013Bueno-Ramírez et al., 2019;Zarzalejos Prieto et al., 2020;López-Costas et al., 2020; for a more complete review on cultural uses of cinnabar see Emslie et al., 2019). Mercury has also been studied in connection with specific social groups in Medieval Europe (Rasmussen et al., 2008(Rasmussen et al., , 2013a(Rasmussen et al., , 2013b. ...
Article
In this study, total mercury (THg) was analyzed in archaeological human bone from 23 sites dating to between the Middle Neolithic and the Antiquity. A total of 370 individuals from individual or collective burials were sampled, mostly using cortical bone from the humerus. These individuals were recovered from over 50 different funerary structures ranging from tholoi, pits, caves and hypogea. Although cinnabar (HgS) is a likely cause of mercury poisoning and toxicity for people exposed to this mineral from mining or use as a paint or pigment, not all sites investigated here had cinnabar associated with the burials or other excavated areas. We found unusual levels of THg in many of the sampled individuals that we assume were caused by exposure to cinnabar in life, and not by diagenetic processes or other exposures to mercury such as through diet which would only cause negligible accumulation of THg in bone. Our data, based on the largest sampling ever undertaken on contamination of human bone through archaeological evidence, provide a baseline for additional research on cinnabar and its use in Prehistory. Moderate to high levels of THg in human bone are mainly associated with societies dating from the second half of the 4th to late 3rd millennia B.C. (Late Neolithic to Middle Chalcolithic) in southern Iberia. By the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age the use of cinnabar decreased significantly and became minimal or absent. The use and abuse of cinnabar appears to have been pervasive throughout the above‐mentioned period, and particularly between c. 2900‐2300 B.C. This occurred in connection with the high symbolic and probably sacred value of the substance, which was sought after, traded and extensively used in a variety of rituals and social practices.
... Cinnabar (HgS), the bright red form of mercury (II) sulphide that represents the most common ore of oxidized mercury found in nature, is another mineral with colouring properties sourced since more recent prehistoric times (Fig. 6). While it has been identified as early as in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic and the early Neolithic funerary and occupation deposits from the Middle East and Spain (Mellaart 1967;Molleson et al. 1992;Martín-Gil et al. 1995;Martínez et al. 1999;Goren et al. 2001;García-Borja 2004;Hunt et al. 2011;Domingo et al. 2012), examples of cinnabar use in prehistoric rock art are unknown. However, at the famous Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük (Turkey), this particular pigment was used both alone or mixed with red ochre to produce wall paintings. ...
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This paper offers a broad and critical overview of current discussions on the potential uses and the characterization of pigments in prehistory, with a special focus on prehistoric rock art. Today, analytical approaches to pigments and paints allow us to go beyond the identification of the elemental and molecular composition of these archaeological remains, to explore also raw material procurement, transformation and use strategies of interest to investigate the technological and socio-cultural practices of prehistoric artists and their change over space and time. The paper also summarizes the palette of prehistoric artists, as well as the techniques and analytical strategies used to date to characterize prehistoric pigments and paints (colours, raw materials, binders and recipes) used in prehistoric rock art.
... In Iberia, from the early fourth millennium BC it has been documented in a number of Late Neolithic and Copper Age collective tombs, in which-apart from ochre-another pigment that is much more vivid and difficult to obtain began to be used: vermillion or powdered cinnabar (Delibes de Castro, 2000). It occurred in significant amounts in the ossuary of the megalithic tomb of La Velilla, in Palencia (Martín-Gil et al., 1995), and, on a smaller scale, in the Galician dolmen of Chan de Armada (Vazquéz Varela, 1988). But the most eloquent testimonies are reported in Andalusia, Extremadura, and southern Portugal. ...
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Throughout prehistoric times it was common to smear red pigment on the bodies of the dead. Iron oxide was the most common pigment, but other pigments were also used. In this work, two red-stained bones from the megalithic tomb of El Moreco were characterized by SEM-EDS, FTIR and GC-MS. The results provide evidence for the usage of a pigment obtained from Rubia spp. This finding constitutes one of the oldest evidences of the use of madder red in Western Europe (IV-III millennium BC) and, without ruling out other functions, suggests that it could have been used as a textile dye.
Article
The authors consider a number of medieval discoveries from the heyday of alchemy: Greek fire, gunpowder sulfurous water, distillation, acids, bases, lead acetate, transmutations, slug gold, Tiffereau's gold, and "Spanish gold." Keywords (Domain): History / Philosophy
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