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INAH trains men and women from surrounding communities to preserve ancient paintings at El Tajín
Building I is located in an elevated area of Tajín Chico, where water falls from the springs in the peaks. Photo: Meliton Tapia INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- The detailed and miniscule paintings in Building I of El Tajín, which constitute the most complete murals conserved in situ, have been stabilized for prolonged conservation after arduous care on behalf of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Along with the support of men and women of the surrounding communities trained in preservation, a team from the National Coordination of Preservation of Cultural Patrimony (CNCPC) managed to give luster to the characters being covered by flakes of salt.

These flakes, a product of humidity, pose a grave threat; Dulce María Grimaldi, responsible for the project, explained. The mural in Building I is over one thousand years old; it was between 900 and 1100 a.C when the structures of Tajín Chico were built.

A diagnostic was carried out in 2007; because of this, the project took the conduction of water into contemplation, with expert restorer Benjamin Jean-Marc Blaisot at its head.

“Building I is located in an elevated area of Tajín Chico, where water falls from the springs in the peaks. This benefited the migration of salts and formation of wet stains.

“We designed a surface conduction to divert the currents and avoid leaving spots for absorption of water,” he described.

The appearance of calcium carbonate salts is also caused by the pitiful state of the covering placed during the exploration work of archeologist Juergen K. Brueggemann.

Once the main problem was attended to, they could turn their attention to the 50m2 murals located on the northern wall and on two areas of the southern corner.

The mural depicts four-legged figures without skins, in capes and jewels. One can also observe human-like creatures with masks of spiral eyes and a forked tongue in blue; they sport crests and ornaments like earflaps in the shape of a shell or conch. The most striking figure is ollin, an important icon of the site.

The intervention began in 2008 with the protection of the floors and walls. At the end of 2009 and all the way until the year 2012 was when the core of the preservation work was done. They consolidated and cleaned the cracked and bloated walls; with a surface finish that blocks lights and shadows that may hinder the observation of the murals.

“It will not be necessary to carry out another intensive intervention. With periodic care and maintenance we can be sure of the preservation of the mural paintings for a long time to come,” said expert Dulce María Grimaldi.

“Afterwards,” she concluded, “we can integrate some kind of infrastructure that may provide better ways for visitors to appreciate it.”

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