Lapis Lazuli

Lapis Lazuli is a semi-precious stone. The principal ancient source for Lapis Lazuli was the region of Badakshan in north-eastern Afghanistan, where ancient quarries have been located. It was traded through Mesopotamia and the Levant, reaching as far as the Aegean. Lapis Lazuli from northeast Afghanistan was highly prized by the societies of Bronze Age Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean .

No sources for Lapis Lazuli have been firmly identified in Egypt, but it was used in Egypt from c. 3500 BCE (Naqada IIc ), indicating the existence of trade networks at this period. Lapis Lazuli was highly prized by the Egyptians because of its brilliant blue colour, which was associated with water, and therefore having life-giving properties. Due to its colour and relative rarity, Lapis Lazuli was believed to have divine properties central to the Egyptian ideology: amulets of the goddess Maat (often interpreted as representing truth, justice, harmony) can be made from Lapis, and some deities can be shown with blue skin, such as Amun, understood to be Lapis Lazuli. Cleopatra allegedly used powdered Lapis Lazuli for eye-shadow.

Interesting links:

The Gemstone

The National Gallery: stone, pigment and colour

Lapis Lazuli at The British Museum


1 Comment

  1. see the other post about Sulfur: sickly yellow sulfur, when its atoms are joined up to make rings.
    The blue colour , artistically and scientifically the opposite of yellow, of lapis is thought to be caused by tiny amounts of pairs of atoms of sulfur, fragments of a molecule trapped in the rock, and held in stasis.
    We’ll show you how intensely it glows when we make this fragment of sulfur during the lecture on Saturday 19th Nov. It will be fleeting, allowed to find its yellow, stable form, but in its short life will shine blue as bright as does Lapis through the ages, in its mineral cage.
    Frank Mair


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