The dangerous secret of Byzantine frescoes

Researchers looking at the wall paintings of the 12th century Byzantine monastery Enkleistra of St. Neophytos in Cyprus, found something they didn't expect: asbestos. Their discovery has been published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

"[The monks] probably wanted to give more shine and different properties to this layer," said UCLA archaeological scientist Ioanna Kakoulli, lead author of the new study. "It definitely wasn't a casual decision — they must have understood the properties of the material."