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The ancient Romans were pretty advanced for their time — so advanced that they may even have been pioneers of what we now call nanotechnology.

In fact, an ornately decorated Roman artifact, known as the Lycurgus cup, is inspiring researchers to explore practical applications of the ancient technology.

Created sometime in the Fourth Century, the goblet exhibits a color-changing property that makes its glass take on different hues, depending on the light source — just watch the cup in the video above.

Scientists were long at a loss to explain the cup’s color changes. Then in the 1990s they discovered tiny particles of silver and gold in the cup’s glass. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “When hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the color depending on the observer’s position.”

Now, a research team is attempting to build upon the unique technology and apply it in the medical field.

Gang Logan Liu, an University of Illinois assistant professor who has studied the Lycurgus cup for several years, described it as an “icon for inspiration.”

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