Giant Maya Figureheads to be Restored





Six giant figureheads at Chakanbakan Archaeological Zone, Quintana Roo, considered the greatest and among the earliest in the area, will be restored by specialists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Created more than 2,300 years ago, these sculptures remind the Olmeca style, which represented deities with jaguar faces, revealing the adoption by Maya of elements from earliest cultures.

Intervention to figureheads made out of stucco, clay and stone is coordinated by Gerardo Calderon and conducted by specialists from the INAH National Coordination of Cultural Heritage Conservation (CNCPC).

“A team of restorers will begin an integral cleaning in May 2010, followed by plastering and reintegration of small missing parts, as well as consolidation”, informed archaeologist Fernando Cortes, in charge of the archaeological zone.

He added that during conservation work, restorers will take samples of the black pigment used to emphasize the face features, to determine its origin and restore it, since sun, rain, wind and time have damaged it.

Cortes mentioned that these figureheads were found 15 years ago beside the staircase of the main temple known as Nohochbalam. “They sizes vary; the smallest is 2 meters high and 3 wide, while the biggest is 3 meters high and 10 wide.

“We calculate these sculptures were made near 350 BC, becoming the antecedent of those impressive ones found at Kohunlich and other Maya sites”.

These monuments have great Olmeca influence: “When you look at them they seem Olmeca heads with Maya elements; Maya adopted elements and this allowed them to develop their own iconography”.

Besides the great resemblance to Olmeca heads, the figureheads were decorated on their sides in a Maya style, pointed out Cortes. “If it was not for the ear ornaments, we would think they are Olmeca sculptures”, he commented.

“As other Maya sculptures, the ears are completely decorated with symbols; these have figures related to flaying and serpents”, concluded archaeologist Cortes.

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