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Spectrochim Acta A Mol Biomol Spectrosc. 2014 Oct 15;131:373-83. doi: 10.1016/j.saa.2014.03.126. Epub 2014 Apr 16.

Analysis of Red Pigments from the Neolithic sites of Çatalhöyük in Turkey and Sheikh-e Abad in Iran.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AD, UK.
Department of Chemistry, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AD, UK. Electronic address:
Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AA, UK.
Diamond Light Source, Harwell, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 0DE, UK.


Samples containing red pigment have been collected from two different archaeological sites dating to the Neolithic (Çatalhöyük in Turkey and Sheikh-e Abad in Iran) and have been analysed by a range of techniques. Sub-samples were examined by IR spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction, whilst thin sections were studied using optical polarising microscopy, synchrotron based IR microscopy and environmental scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray analysis. Thin layers of red paint in a wall painting from Çatalhöyük were found to contain ochre (hematite and clay) as well as an unexpected component, grains of red and colourless obsidian, which have not been identified in any previous studies of the wall paintings at Çatalhöyük. These small grains of obsidian may have improved the reflective properties of the paint and made the artwork more vivid in the darkness of the buildings. Analysis of a roughly shaped ball of red sediment found on a possible working surface at Sheikh-e Abad revealed that the cause of the red colouring was the mineral hematite, which was probably from a source of terra rossa sediment in the local area. The results of this work suggest it is unlikely that this had been altered by the Neolithic people through mixing with other minerals.


IR microscopy; Obsidian; Sheikh-e Abad; Synchrotron; Wall painting; Çatalhöyük

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