Egyptian Blue Pellets from the First Century BCE Workshop of Kos (Greece): Microanalytical Investigation by Optical Microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy-X-ray Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy and Micro-Raman Spectroscopy
This paper aims to expand our understanding of the processes involved in the production of the artificial pigment Egyptian blue through the scientific examination of pigments found in the first century BCE workshop of the Greek island of Kos. There, 136 Egyptian blue pellets were brought to light, including successfully produced pellets, as well as partially successful and unsuccessful products. This study is based on the examination of eighteen samples obtained from pellets of various textures and tones of blue, including light and dark blue pigments, coarse and fine-grained materials, and one unsuccessful pellet of dark green/grey colour. The samples were examined by optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and micro-Raman spectroscopy. These complementary microanalytical techniques provide localised information about the chemical and mineralogical composition of this multicomponent material, at a single-grain level. The results shed light on the firing procedure and indicate possible sources for raw materials (beach sand, copper alloys), as well as demonstrating the use of a low-alkali starting mixture. Moreover, two different process for the production of light blue pigments were identified: (a) decreased firing time and (b) grinding of the initially produced pellet and mixing with cobalt-containing material.
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