Lapis lazuli is a semi-precious stone of compact lazurite. The color is usually deep blue. Sometimes inclusions of pyrite (glitters) or white veins of calcite can be seen. The stone has been known since ancient times. It was used, as in our time, as an ornamental stone. In the past, it was also ground to serve as a dye in painting (ultramarine).
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Lapis lazuli, or lapis for short, is a deep-blue metamorphic rock used as a semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense color.
As early as the 7th millennium BCE, lapis lazuli was mined in the Sar-i Sang mines, in Shortugai, and in other mines in Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan.
Lapis lazuli artifacts, dated to 7570 BCE, have been found at Bhirrana, which is the oldest site of Indus Valley Civilisation. Lapis was highly valued by the Indus Valley Civilisation (7570–1900 BCE). Lapis beads have been found at Neolithic burials in Mehrgarh, the Caucasus, and as far away as Mauritania. It was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun (1341–1323 BCE).
By the end of the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli began to be exported to Europe, where it was ground into powder and made into ultramarine, the finest and most expensive of all blue pigments. Ultramarine was used by some of the most important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, including Masaccio, Perugino, Titian and Vermeer, and was often reserved for the clothing of the central figures of their paintings, especially the Virgin Mary. Ultramarine has also been found in dental tartar of medieval nuns and scribes.
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