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More than 1,000 Year-Old Archaeological Pieces from Palenque Studied and Restored
The Temple of the Cross tableau. Photo: DMC INAH. M. TAPIA.

MEXICO CITY.- Archaeological pieces created more than 1000 years ago, found at the ancient city of Palenque, Chiapas, such as the tableau of the Temple of the Cross (Templo de la Cruz), the mask of the Red Queen (Reina Roja) and a group of figurines that represent members of the Palenque dynasty, have been restored or studied parting from their display at the exhibition Six Ancient Cities of Mesoamerica at the National Museum of Anthropology, already visited by 33,400 persons.

Laura Filloy, curator of the hall dedicated to Palenque at the exhibit that will be open until June 2011, commented that this show has represented an opportunity of enhancing the value of artwork from Palenque that is part of the collection of the museums of Anthropology (MNA) and Palenque Site Museum, as well as the Community Museum at Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco.

The restorer remarked the case of the Temple of the Cross tableau, on display since 1964 in the Maya Hall of the MNA: the piece is integrated by 3 sections, the central and right parts had been detached from the building in the 19th century.

In the 1920’s, the Ministry of Public Education (SEP) ordered to gather the 3 parts of the tableaux to exhibit them in the former National Museum, since the one on the right was in the United States. In 1964, they were moved to the recently inaugurated National Museum of Anthropology.

Filloy, a researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), mentioned that regarding the restoration of the piece that dates from the Classic Maya period, around 692 AD, first a report of its conservation state was issued, and interventions made in late 19th and early 20th centuries were eliminated.

“Then, after analyses, fragments were united with material similar to the original stone. When surface cleaning took place, salt layers were discovered on the central and left sections of the tableau, because the central part remained exposed to the elements in 19th century, while the left one was attached to the wall of the Temple of the Cross. Salts were removed, allowing limestone to recover its original hue.

“Thanks to the support of epigraphist Guillermo Bernal, from the Center of Maya Studies of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), we determined which glyphs were missing in the right section of the panel and drew the lost fragments,” recalled Laura Filloy.

The Temple of the Cross tableau presents the scene of a rite to honor god GI conducted by K’inich Kan B’ahlam the day of his enthronement on January 7th 684 of the Common Era. His father, Pakal II is depicted, although he had departed at the time. Most inscriptions refer to the genealogic dynasty of Palenque, while the iconography is about the sky.

After Six Ancient Cities of Mesoamerica ends, it will be analyzed if a space is adapted to incorporate the piece to the permanent exhibition.

The Mask of the Red Queen (Reina Roja)
Restorer Laura Filloy mentioned that although the funerary mask of the woman who wed Pakal II underwent restoration recently, conducted by expert Juan Alfonso Cruz, the fact of being exhibited favored new analyses.

“We took advantage of the mask being transported from Palenque Site Museum to Mexico City to conduct analyses with the support of Dr. Jose Luis Ruvalcaba, from the Institute of Physics of the UNAM, in order to study the mineral used to create it.

“Unlike other Maya funerary masks, made out of jade and jadeite, the mask of the Red Queen (made near 672 AD and discovered in 1994) was made with an unknown type of malachite; we want to know where Palenque people found it, although there are unexplored mines near Palenque that were exploited not too long ago”, explained the specialist who works at the Restoration Area of the National Museum of Anthropology.

Other Palenque Pieces
Besides a group of clay figurines that portray the Palenque court, the exhibition Six Ancient Cities of Mesoamerica became an opportunity of restoring a panel at the INAH National Coordination for Cultural Heritage Conservation, which was found in fragments, safeguarded at the Community Museum of Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco, a place that was part of the Palenque dominions.

The stone panel depicts the death of K’an Bahlam II, Lord of Palenque, in 702 AD. It represents a seated character with a delicate tool in his hand, carving a great head.

Finally, another piece included in the great exhibition at MNA is the mask of a power belt discovered at Tomb 3 of Temple 18 at Palenque, dated between 550 and 600 AD, which is to be restored by the Funerary Masks Project, in charge of restorer Sofia Martinez del Campo Lanz.

Six Ancient Cities of Mesoamerica. Society and Environment
The exhibition is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 19:00 hours. Access is included in the ticket bought for permanent halls.

Children under 13, students and teachers with valid ID, researchers at INAH, and senior citizens do not pay.

On Sundays entrance is free for Mexicans and residents presenting ID.

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