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Colossal ancient Maya stucco mask uncovered in Yucatan

A rare and giant stucco mask left by a long-gone Maya community was found at the archaeological site of Ucanha in the municipality of Cansahcab. 

Colossal ancient Maya stucco mask uncovered in Yucatan
The stucco mask of Ucanha being worked on by archaeologists
[Credit: INAH]

Researchers have dated the mask to the 4th century and note that it is reminiscent of similar decorative elements found in other archaeological sites in Yucatan such as Acanche and Izamal. 

According to archaeologists working for Mexico’s Institute of History and Anthropology, the mask was first discovered in 2017. It is not unusual for archaeological finds to go unreported until resources have been mustered to ensure their protection from bad actors such as looters. 

Colossal ancient Maya stucco mask uncovered in Yucatan
Researchers restored the mask before reburying it to protect
against looters and erosion [Credit: INAH]

The discovery is reported to have been made by Jacob Welch, a graduate student at Yale University. The team responsible for uncovering the mask has been made up of Mexican and American researchers, laborers and other students.

In a press release, authorities point out that preliminary research regarding the state of conservation of the mask began in 2018, with actual excavation being started in 2019.

Colossal ancient Maya stucco mask uncovered in Yucatan
The sculpture was flanked by staircases on either side
[Credit: INAH]

Though relatively few archaeological elements such as the mask at Ucanha have managed to survive into the 21st century, in the distant past they would have been a common sight for the ancient Maya, who used such elements to adorn the facades of grand structures.

The survival of archaeological remains through large spans of time largely comes down to luck.

Colossal ancient Maya stucco mask uncovered in Yucatan
Researchers found the mask at Ucanha, an archaeological site
off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico [Credit: INAH]

Erosion, roots, soil and looters represent dangers to the survival of such features, especially those made from less resistant materials such as stucco.   

Author: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht | Source: Yucatan Magazine [February 05, 2021]

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