Monday, August 27, 2018

Recoloring the Arch of Titus

Nearly every single statue, relief, or carving that we have from the ancient world appears in the natural color of the material used to produce it. Over the past 20 to 30 years scientists have used advanced instruments to detect tiny bits of pigment still discernible on the surface of these artifacts, leading to the realization that the ancient world was much more colorful than previously thought.

In 2012 a team from Yeshiva University, led by Professor Steven Fine, took detailed laser scans of the Arch of Titus' famous "Spoils Panel" that depicts the treasures of the Beis Hamikdash being paraded through the streets of Rome. These scans were used to produce a virtual model of the panel with sub-millimeter accuracy. In addition, they analyzed one small part of this panel — the menorah — using both UV and visible light spectrometers to search for the presence of pigment. They did find small traces of pigment whose chemical fingerprint matched that of yellow ochre, leading them to conclude that the menorah had likely been painted yellow.

The team digitally restored and colorized their model of the Spoils Panel to what it may have looked like when it was first created.

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