Every year, thousands of visitors flock to the British Museum to see the Parthenon Sculptures.
Also known as the Elgin Marbles, the Parthenon Sculptures are a collection of marble decorative statues taken from the temple to Athena on the Acropolis in Athens.
While the famous marble carvings are now white, a new study suggests that they were once brilliantly coloured.
Researchers from the Art Institute of Chicago found that the goddess’ clothes in particular were highly decorated, with designs possibly showing running figures or floral patterns.
Dr Giovanni Verri, lead researcher, said: ‘The elegant and elaborate garments were possibly intended to represent the power and might of the Olympian gods, as well as the wealth and reach of Athens and the Athenians.’
Researchers have found that the Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum are covered with traces of brightly coloured paint
Special imaging techniques reveal the areas where microscopic amounts of a blue pigment called Egyptian blue still remain
The sculptures are believed to have been made in 447BC and 432BC, over 2,400 years ago.
They consist of a frieze showing a procession to celebrate the birthday of Athena, a number of panels showing battling centaurs, and various statues of the Greek gods.
In the study, the researchers used a technique called visible-induced luminescence imaging to reveal microscopic traces of pigments on the stone.
This technique, which Dr Verri developed, was used to detect even the smallest traces of a pigment called Egyptian blue.
Egyptian blue is made up of calcium, copper, and silicon and is the world’s oldest synthetic pigment, having been first used in Egypt around 3,000 BCE.
With this technique, the researchers were able to clearly see that areas of the Parthenon Sculptures were once covered with large amounts of bright blue paint.
The analysis also