Mérida, Yucatán — While renovations creep along at the old Hotel Mérida, a Mayan relic it once displayed will be loaned to the Palacio Cantón for an exhibit.
INAH, federal guardians of the nation’s heritage, carried away the limestone carving dating to 700-900 A.D., possibly from the archaeological zone of Ichmul. It depicts ball players at Chichén Itzá, archeologists believe. It has been in the pink hotel’s lobby since 1954.
Rafael Ramos, owner of the historic Hotel Mérida building since 2007, told reporters his crew found the archeological piece in one of the main rooms before they notified INAH.
Specialists determined that the piece is historically significant, and cannot legally be owned by any private individual. But they can possess it under INAH guidelines. Previously, the tablet, called “Panel número II de Ichmul,” was exposed to conditions that led to its decay.
“The piece is not ours, it is of all Mexicans, but when counting on its legal possession we will take the measures that the National Institute of Anthropology and History tells us to keep it properly,” said Ramos.
INAH will oversee restoration work on the tablet before displaying it temporarily at the Palacio Cantón on the Paseo Montejo. It will be part of an exhibit called “Lakiin: El Poderío del Oriente Maya.”
Then it will be returned to the hotel, an old casona with a mid-20th-century tower that once dominated the Centro, on Calle 60 and 57.
According to media reports, the casona portion of the complex will be a boutique hotel, while the tower will be run by Holiday Inn Express. A completion date has not been announced.
Moving the piece, which weighs over a ton, was not easy. The stone is 87 x 133 centimeters in height and width, and 42 cm thick. It took five men and a special crane, among other equipment, to transport the Ichmul Panel without causing damage.
The hotel isn’t the only private holder of Mayan treasures. Attorney José Arturo Chab, from the Legal Department of INAH, reported that in Yucatán they have registered 154 archeological pieces to individuals, which officials visit periodically.