New Discovery of White Pigment in Ancient Peru Changes the History of Color

March 3, 2022

1908, a lab in Niagara Falls invented a white pigment that is found in everything from plastic to pills. It is made from the chemical titanium dioxide.

In 2018, researchers in the United States discovered titanium white in 400-plus-year-old ceremonial wooden drinking cups made by the Inca and residing today in various museums. Carved with elaborate geometrical designs, the cups, called qeros, traditionally were not colored. But around the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru in 1530, the Inca started mixing pigments, including titanium white, into resin and decorating qeros with the bright goo.

How did the Inca jump 400 years into the future? There is a deposit, the Giacomo Deposit, at the Chile/Peru border that contains titanium dioxide and silica. The qeros in the museums look like the deposits at Giacomo. This has re-written the history of color.

Smithsonian has the report here;