Image - Cacao Pod Vessel - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 1999:
James E. Brady

Ultraviolet and Infrared Filming of the Naj Tunich Inscriptions
by James E. Brady and Gene A. Ware
Vea este informe en Español.

Research Year:  1997
Culture:  Maya
Chronology:  Classic
Location:  Eastern Guatemala
Site:  Naj Tunich

Multiple images of the Naj Tunich corpus of inscriptions were taken using a scientific grade digital camera and an array of filters. Selected optical filters, with a nominal bandwidth of 40 nanometers, were used to obtain images at wavelengths throughout the visible spectrum and extending into the near-infrared at 950 nanometers. The goal was to collect substantially enhanced images of faded inscriptions and hopefully detect vestigial remains of pigment in eroded drawings. Unfortunately, it appears that all pigment is missing in eroded drawings so dramatic improvements were not possible in those cases. Substantially improved images of faded drawings were noted and various methods of processing continue to be used to achieve further improvement.

Among the new techniques of analysis used is one which determines pigment spectral contrast. This technique selects pixels from the pigment locations and compares them with pixels selected from the nearby background. Such comparisons can be made over a range of wavelengths producing a spectral signature of the pigment contrast with the background. This spectral signature can be used to identify differences in the pigment in the drawings at Naj Tunich. While Andrea Stone (1995:109) argues that at least two different pigments were being used, the spectral data suggests that there are at least three. More importantly the ability to document these differences spectrally reveals far more complexity in the Naj Tunich corpus than previously appreciated.

Drawing 62, a profile human face, appears to have a uniform dark paint in the visible (550 nanometers) and hence will appear dark to the eye and to conventional photography (Figure 1a). Portions of the face, however, show significant fading in the near infrared (750 and 950 nanometers) perhaps due to a mineral-based pigment (Figure 1b & Figure 1c). The presence of two different pigment compositions in Drawing 62 suggests that the profile was either over-painted at the time of creation or, more likely, touched up at a later date.

Drawing 62, Figures 1a, 1b, & 1c
Drawing 62
Figure 1a                                      Figure 1b                                      Figure 1c

The application of this new technique has opened a new dimension for the analysis of the Naj Tunich corpus. Besides the case of over-painting, the ability to characterize pigment composition using spectral contrast data has revealed an example of textual additions (Drawing 34) as well as basic relational differences and similarities between drawings. This, in turn, has led to an increased understanding of both the temporal and artistic complexity of the inscriptions themselves and their setting.

Drawing 34
Drawing 34

Click to download the drawings in PDF format:

Drawing 4  (1.79 MB)
Drawing 5
Drawing 5 - Part 1  (1.68 MB)
Drawing 5 - Part 2  (0.98 MB)
Drawing 5 - Part 3  (1.58 MB)
Drawing 5 - Part 4  (1.79 MB)
Drawing 6  (1.48 MB)
Drawing 17  (397 KB)
Drawing 18  (800 KB)
Drawing 24  (1.02 MB)
Drawing 25  (713 KB)
Drawing 28  (741 KB)
Drawing 29  (1.98 MB)
Drawing 32  (479 KB)
Drawing 33  (208 KB)
Drawing 34  (243 KB)
Drawing 35  (244 KB)
Drawing 36  (328 KB)
Drawing 37  (2.60 MB)
Drawing 39  (235 KB)
Drawing 40  (251 KB)
Drawing 41  (240 KB)
Drawing 44  (424 KB)
Drawing 45  (224 KB)
Drawing 46  (222 KB)
Drawing 48  (612 KB)
Drawing 49  (906 KB)
Drawing 52  (590 KB)
Drawing 59  (310 KB)
Drawing 61 and 62  (283 KB)
Drawing 63  (296 KB)
Drawing 64  (326 KB)
Drawing 65  (2.18 MB)
Drawing 67  (223 KB)
Drawing 68  (243 KB)
Drawing 69 and 70  (254 KB)
Drawing 71  (249 KB)
Drawing 72  (214 KB)
Drawing 73 and 74  (230 KB)
Drawing 76  (218 KB)
Drawing 83  (311 KB)

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Submitted 02/01/2000 by:
Dr. James E. Brady
Department of Anthropology
California State University
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8223

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