A giant Mayan mask the size of a person has been revealed at an archaeological site in the Mexican state of Yucatán.
The mask, which represents the face of an unknown deity or an elite, was carved from stucco building material and dates back to a period in Maya history known as the Late Preclassic (around 300 BC – 250 AD), according to the media Yucatan News.
The discovery was made in 2017 at the archaeological site of Ucanha, near the modern city of Motul, and since then researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH) have been working to hard to restore it.
Stucco masks like this one “represent the faces of individuals with particular characteristics that may be associated with deities or figures of prominent social status”, INAH said in a statement.
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The mask is a stucco relief, a type of brightly painted sculpture carved on a stucco background. The Mayans typically placed these masks around the stairs with pyramidal bases, the statement said. Archaeologists have found reliefs similar to Acanceh and Izamal, but this is the first in Ucanha. The find is part of ongoing research into Mayan mounds found at the site.
The mask was temporarily re-buried after its discovery so that the structure would be protected until it could be properly studied and preserved. Samples taken from the structure revealed deterioration and it was excavated again in 2018 so that archaeologists could restore it.
During the process of restoration and conservation, archaeologists reinforced the fragile parts of the mask. They also moved sections that had been moved over time to their original positions. They also cleaned the surfaces to highlight the patterns and colors of the mask.
Archaeologists completed the work in 2019, before burying the mask one last time. INAH said the purpose of these efforts is to ensure the long-term preservation of the mask at the site, which has no legal protection.
Originally posted on Live Science.