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Mayan ‘Frieze of Pleasures’ to be restored to its colorful grandeur

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Archaeologist Sergio González García leads restoration efforts of the famous frieze in the Maya Room of Mexico City’s national museum of history and anthropology. Photo: Courtesy

Art restorers at Mexico’s national museum of history and anthropology in Mexico City are working on one of Mesoamerica’s most impressive stucco friezes.

Dating from the age of the classic Maya in Campeche, this artwork likely adorned a temple in Campeche before it was pillaged roughly 60 years ago. 

“The frieze was illegally dismantled and shipped to New York in pieces before it was recovered by Mexican authorities,” INAH announced in a press statement.

The massive frieze is known as “El Friso de Placeres,” weighs in at 8 tones, and is over 25 feet tall. 

“This incredible piece has long been one of the greatest attractions at the museum’s Mayan exhibit. Now we think it’s time to bring it back to its former glory,” said INAH archaeological restorer Sergio González García. 

Despite being dismantled so many years ago, the frieze was already in remarkably good shape on display in Mexico City but had lost much of its color, especially in details in areas such as the eyes. 

Earlier: Grad student uncovers colossal ancient Maya mask in Yucatán

The Friso de Placeres, or Frieze of Pleasures, back in 2018 before its most recent round of restoration. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The team led by González García has analyzed samples of the stucco frieze in an effort to replicate its original colors.

Also aiding restoration efforts are color photographs taken by the looters themselves, which offer some glimpses into what the frieze originally looked like. 

One of several photos taken by the American-led team of looters who removed the frieze from a structure in Campeche. Photo: Courtesy

As the restoration is taking place out in the open in the museum itself, many folks have visited the museum for a chance to see the experts at work. 

 “It will take as long as it takes,” González García replied when asked by TV Azteca how long the restoration effort was likely to take. “The most important thing is to get this right.”

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