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Byzantine Monks Used Asbestos in Wall Paintings

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Byzantine-Monastery-Painting-uv-lightLOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—While examining the changes in building materials over time at the monastery Enkleistra of St. Neophytos in Cyprus, investigators discovered white asbestos beneath some areas of the twelfth-century wall paintings. The fibrous material, added to the finish coating of plaster, produced a smooth finish. The monks “probably wanted to give more shine and different properties to this layer. It definitely wasn’t a casual decision—they must have understood the properties of the material,” archaeological scientist Ioanna Kakoulli of UCLA told Live Science. The main deposits of asbestos in Cyprus are located some 38 miles away from the monastery, suggesting that the monks may have traded for it.