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科学美国人60秒:细菌浆液制作颜料 推动古代岩石艺术

所属教程:科学美国人60秒科学系列 更新:11-27
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Ancient Rock Art Got a Boost From Bacteria

细菌浆液制作颜料 推动古代岩石艺术

Modern painters usually get art supplies from a store—you want red paint, you buy red paint. But thousands of years ago, indigenous artists in what went on to become British Columbia actually cooked a slurry of aquatic bacteria to produce their distinctive red paints.

现代画家通常从商店购买美术用品——你想要红色颜料,你就买红色颜料。但数千年前,不列颠哥伦比亚省的土著艺术家们通过煮了一种水生细菌的浆液来制作他们独特的红色颜料。

“Well, yeah, it was a long time ago; there were no art stores. That’s what got us interested in exploring it further, because it was just such a complex series of steps to produce this paint.”

“是啊,那是很久以前的事了。那时没有艺术商店。这让我们想进一步一探究竟,因为制作这种颜料需要一系列复杂的步骤。”

Brandi MacDonald. She works in archaeological science at the University of Missouri Research Reactor—a nuclear reactor used for studies in a wide variety of disciplines. The paint MacDonald examined was on a fragment of ancient rock art from central British Columbia. Indigenous artists there had used a distinctive ochre pigment to paint rocks with designs of otters, fish, caribou, beavers and canoes.

布兰迪·麦克唐纳在密苏里大学研究反应物的考古科学部门工作——该部门研究多种学科的核反应堆。麦克唐纳检查的那幅画是在不列颠哥伦比亚省中部的一块古代岩石艺术碎片上。当地的土著艺术家用一种独特的赭色颜料在岩石上绘出水獭、鱼、驯鹿、海狸和独木舟的图案。

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Under an electron microscope, MacDonald saw tiny tubules in the paint—structures produced by a particular microbe—that tipped her off that the iron oxide pigment might be of biological origin. She later determined the pigment was produced by the aquatic bacterium Leptothrix ochracea.

在电子显微镜下,麦克唐纳看到了颜料中的小管——由一种特殊的微生物产生的结构——这让她意识到氧化铁色素可能是生物来源。后来,她确定这种色素是由水生细菌细蓟马属产生的。

“It kinda floats as this brownish auburn, orangish algal mat at the surfaces of little freshwater streams. It takes iron out of iron-enriched water and uses that as energy to grow these little colonies.”

“它有点像这个褐色的赤褐色,橙色的海藻垫漂浮在淡水溪流的表面。它从富含铁的水中提取铁,并利用这些能量来培育这些小菌落。”

But the substance wasn’t just straight bacterial paint. The microscopic structure looked like it was cooked, too, to make the pigment more durable and colorfast. To test that idea, MacDonald and her team gathered mats of this bacterium from a stream in Maine. They heated it under the electron microscope. And they saw that the minerals in the pigment crystallized—changes they’d also seen in the original sample—which would make the paint more resistant to breaking down.

但这种物质不仅仅是纯细菌涂料。显微结构表明是经过水煮,着使色素更持久不褪色。为了验证这个想法,麦克唐纳和团队从缅因州的一条小溪中收集了这种细菌的菌垫。他们在电子显微镜下把它加热。他们发现颜料中的矿物质结晶了,这是他们在原始样品中看到的变化,使得颜料更不易分解。

The results—and links to incredible videos of that bubbling, cooking pigment—are in the journal Scientific Reports.

研究结果——以及那些令人难以置信的冒泡、烹饪色素的视频链接——发表在《科学报告》杂志上。

MacDonald’s team is now working with indigenous communities in central British Columbia to learn more about the history of rock art there and how it was produced—and to share these new microscopic insights into this ancient art.

麦克唐纳的团队现在正与不列颠哥伦比亚省中部的土著社区合作,以更多地了解那里的岩石艺术的历史以及产生途径——并通过这些微观景象展示古代艺术。

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