She was the original blue nun.
Scientists studying the skull of a nun who lived nearly 1,000 years ago in a monastery in Germany have made an unusual discovery – fragments of a blue pigment lodged in her teeth.
The pigment turned out to be ultramarine, an expensive and very rare painting material made from lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone.
They believe it ended up there because the middle-aged nun was an illustrator of lavish medieval religious manuscripts and that she would have licked the end of her paint brushes as she went about her painstaking work.
The unprecedented discovery suggests that illustrating biblical texts, previously thought to have been a task performed by monks, was also the preserve of women during the Middle Ages.
The find also shows the extensive trading links established by medieval European countries because lapis lazuli comes only from the mountains of Afghanistan, 3,000 miles away.
The flecks of blue were preserved because they became embedded in the fossilised dental plaque or calculus of the nun’s teeth.
Her remains were unearthed in a medieval cemetery near a monastery in Dalheim, south of Frankfurt.
The earliest known written records of the monastery date to 1244, although it may have been established as early as the 10th century.
It is believed to have been home to small groups of nuns until its destruction by fire in the 14th century.
The nun is believed to have been aged between 45 and 60 when she died around 1100AD.
Scientists were initially baffled…
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