Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Aztec Camera

Camera using only technology available to the Aztecs
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As you can probably imagine, this has been bubbling under in my mind and possibly yours too since 1982. Well, now it finally sees the light of day.

The device has a parabolic mirror carved out of a block of obsidian. This focuses the light from the scene before it onto a second flat obsidian mirror at some distance from the first one, at an angle of forty-five degrees. This reflects the image into a darkened stone chamber onto a flat wall which is periodically covered in amatl - Mesoamerican paper made from fig bark used for codices. The image is then inked in by someone sitting in the darkness using a combination of Maya blue (which was used by Aztecs), nocheztli (cochineal), xochipalli (yellow pigment) and nacazcolotl (black ink).

The entire assemblage consists of a paved flat surface west of the rest of the apparatus while avoiding any shadows cast, the parabolic mirror facing the scene, the smaller mirror on a pedestal at the focal point of the larger mirror and a darkened camera in which the artist sits. In order to take a picture, the painter goes into the chamber shortly before dawn with the necessary pigments and places a sheet of amate in the requisite position on the back wall. This allows the eyes to adapt to the dark. Shortly after sunrise, the object to be depicted is placed at the correct distance from the parabolic mirror, leading to an image forming on the amate. The occupant of the camera then fills in the image, leaving it to dry and the result is something vaguely resembling a photo.

For my next trick I shall describe the merits and techniques required for building and living in a Prefab Sprout.

nineteenthly, Oct 31 2018

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       Arguably an easier idea to write than Crispy Ambulance
hippo, Oct 31 2018
  

       Presuming they use a "Knife" to make the mirrors?   

       We could make one in the UK, at Aztec West.
not_morrison_rm, Oct 31 2018
  

       How reflective is obsidian? I mean, it's basically black glass, but it's not silvered.   

       Also, it's good that the Western world managed to find a language to which to sell all those surplus Zs and Xs.
MaxwellBuchanan, Oct 31 2018
  

       The Aztecs could work gold with considerable skill, so there would be nothing to prevent them coating a hemispherical or paraboloid mirror with a very thin layer of gold. Since this idea is for a camera obscura, there's no articular requirement to render colour accurately as the artist can carry out any necessary compensation.   

       A pinhole would be simpler, but wouldn't give such a bright image.   

       Various "Crystal Skulls" are WKTE. If mesoamerican cultures could work rock crystal (quartz) to produce such complex artefacts, making a convex lens should be a relatively simple task.   

       Or maybe the crystal skulls have some special refractive qualities so that when placed on a particular spot, they focus incident light - or an image - in a specific way ... <cue Harrison Ford, stage left>   

       Will you also be bringing forward a design proposal for a dirigible airship constructed from a dense, malleable Group XIV metal ?
8th of 7, Oct 31 2018
  

       Oddly enough, yes! But I'm still working on my prefab sprout for now.   

       Your amendments make more technical sense than mine but I'm not sure they're more aztechnical.
nineteenthly, Nov 01 2018
  

       Gold, or blue?
Ian Tindale, Nov 01 2018
  

       Presumably once complete, the "photograph" is mounted in a frame made of small rods - or as the Aztecs called it, a "Roddy Frame"
goff, Nov 02 2018
  

       Or, there are those holders which, like the little dog models in the back of cars, bob their heads up and down.
Ian Tindale, Nov 02 2018
  

       //But I'm still working on my prefab sprout for now.//   

       Large trays of cress could work as a photographic plate.
bigsleep, Nov 06 2018
  

       If the subject of the photo needed better lighting perhaps you could design an Incan-descendant flashbulb?
AusCan531, Nov 06 2018
  

       That sounds a bit too Toltechnical ...   

       You could put a big flat mirror on top of one of their temples to reflect sunlight, but you might not want to get involved in a pyramid scheme ...
8th of 7, Nov 06 2018
  

       Oh Mayan other pun. Atlatl do nicely.
If they really could have taken photos would they have writually sacrificed them? Makes me shutter to think of it.
  

       I'll get my Quetzalcoatl...   

       Oh yeah, and a (+) for //Incan-descendant flashbulb//.
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