The researchers were studying a skeleton of a woman who was estimated to be between 45 and 60 years old when she died sometime between 997 and 1162. The skeleton itself was unremarkable, with no visible signs of trauma or infection.
But blue flecks were embedded in her teeth. Multiple spectrographic analyses revealed the blue pigment to be ultramarine, a rare pigment made from crushed lapis lazuli stones. It was as expensive as gold at the time, mined from a single region in Afghanistan and the ultimate luxury trade good then.
…”Only scribes and painters of exceptional skill would have been entrusted with its use,” said Alison Beach, study co-author and historian at Ohio State University, in a statement.
…”Based on the distribution of the pigment in her mouth, we concluded that the most likely scenario was that she was herself painting with the pigment and licking the end of the brush while painting,” said Monica Tromp, study co-author and microbioarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, in a statement.