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New round of restoration for giant stucco masks at Kohunlich

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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.
Kohunlich’s five massive stucco masks are considered among the most beautiful of their kind in Mesoamerica. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

A group of INAH archaeologists led by Patricia Meehan Hermanson has begun restoration work on Kohunlich’s famous giant stucco masks in Quintana Roo. 

The stucco masks were first rediscovered in the 1960s by archaeologist Victor Segovia on the facade of Structure A1, also known as the Temple of the Masks. 

Since then, the masks have been restored on several occasions and had a thatch roof installed above the entire structure to avoid damage from the elements.

The monumental masks, which are roughly three meters tall and four meters wide, are partially protected from the area’s intense heat, humidity, and rain. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

“The problem is that the stucco is extremely porous and easily damaged when evaporation begins to dry out the humidity,” said Hermanson.

Earlier: Grad student uncovers colossal ancient Maya mask in Yucatán

Some specialists have suggested that for their protection the masks should be moved indoors to a museum, perhaps in Chetumal or onsite. 

But others insist that the colossal masks should remain where they were found, as moving them would rob the site of its principal attraction and could also be potentially dangerous to the masks themselves. This is because the relics are not simply set on top of the niches which contain them, but are rather built into the structure itself. 

One of the five colossal stucco masks at Kohunlich. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

“We of course want future generations to continue to enjoy these marvels, but for this goal to be accomplished we must be vigilant and always make sure that enough resources are being allocated to safeguard national heritage sites,” said Hermanson.

Kohunlich is 65 kilometers / 40 miles west of the capital city of Chetumal. The city was first inhabited by the Maya in the 2nd century BC but most of its monumental construction was erected between the 3rd to 4th centuries AD.

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