TECHNOLOGY is providing archaeologists with more evidence that structures in the Roman Forum which we know as white marble, were actually brightly painted in vibrant colors.It now appears that the Arch of Titus was ablaze with color and not placid white as depicted in conventional renderings (left), according to 3-D optical data capture and ultra-violet visual spectrometry analysis.
Bernard Frischer, a classics and art history professor in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, led a team of experts who used cutting-edge technology to find traces of rich yellow pigment on a bas-relief of the menorah on the 1st-Century Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum.
Historical sources describe the menorah looted by the Romans when they destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as made of gold. In its heyday, the yellow pigment would have appeared gold from a distance.
Exposed to the elements for centuries, today no traces of pigment are visible to the naked eye. The arch was cleaned and restored in the 1820s.
"For all we knew, any surviving pigment had been scraped off the marble, as has happened all too often in the past with other monuments and statues," Frischer said. A 1999 study "found plenty of discoloration owing to pollution, but no traces of ancient pigment."