MÉRIDA, Yuc.- The archaeological site of Ucanha in Yucatán has been little explored but there are already relevant vestiges that have been restored by INAH archaeologists, such as a stucco mask from the late pre-classic period of the Mayan culture.
The archaeological site is located near Cansahcab and Motul, municipalities to which it was linked by a sacbé (Mayan road), and the mask was located in an area near the city of Motul.
Ucanha has a set of Mayan mounds that are being studied and the INAH Yucatán recently released the details of the mask found in the area, which is closed to the general public.
The Study and Conservation Project of the Stucco Mask of Structure 92 of the Ucanha archaeological site was carried out with the purpose of preserving the decorative element of the architecture of the late pre-classic period, located by archaeologist Jacob Welch of Yale University, from the United States.
What are Maya masks?
The stucco reliefs, called masks, represent the faces of individuals with particular features that can be associated with deities, or with characters of prominent social status.
They tend to flank the stairways with pyramidal bases and are profusely decorated with color. There are good examples of these representations in Acanceh, Izamal and now in Ucanha.
Structure 92 is located in the basal platform with the largest volume of the site and in one of the largest in the region that surrounds the sacbé between the settlements of Ucí and Cansahcab.
At the end of 2017, the decorative element was temporarily re-buried with the intention of properly protecting it and postponing its attention until 2018.
During the summer of 2018, the decorative element and the rest of the adjacent staircase were re-excavated.
During these excavations, emergent conservation measures were applied that allowed the stucco coatings and reliefs to be kept in position, and to consolidate the fragile areas as well as possible, to reposition the sections that had suffered some displacement, and to carry out general cleaning of the surface.
The results of the archaeological studies carried out provided relevant information on the state of deterioration detected, as well as the nature of the constituent materials and the construction technique of the element. These results were crucial for the planning of conservation activities in 2019.
A unique mask in the region, the Ucanha mask represents a unique element not found anywhere else in the Maya World, and INAH seeks to ensure its long-term preservation since the archaeological site is not open to the public and does not have legal protection.
Conservation and restoration treatments were applied between 2017 and 2019 to stabilize the mask.
These treatments consisted of cleaning, consolidating and reinforcing its supports, as well as replacement of structural gaps to ensure its original position.
In 2019, the physical and chemical stabilization of the mask and the adjacent staircase was completed, as well as the cleaning of a good percentage of the surface to determine the pattern and decorative color design on the mask, as well as image studies to identify the different pigments and designs.
Once this stage was concluded, the permanent reburial was carried out to ensure the preservation of this spectacular and ancient decorative element of Yucatecan pre-classical architecture.