Mask of Maya ruler Pakal unearthed in Palenque

Researchers are excited about the discovery of an ancient Maya mask representing a ruler, Pakal. Photo: INAA
Researchers are excited about the discovery of an ancient Maya mask representing a ruler, Pakal. Photo: INAA

Archaeologists in Palenque may have gotten the modern world’s first glimpse of what a famous Maya king looked like toward the end of his life.

The plaster mask unearthed in Chiapas is believed to be the first relic ever found that depicts the mighty ruler, Pakal “El Grande.”

The INAH team, led by Arnoldo González, discovered the sculpture next to a ritual deposit of ceramics, aquatic fauna and minerals in El Palacio’s architectural complex in Chiapas.

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The discovery was recorded during conservation work aimed at understanding how water accumulated in the east courtyard of the ancient complex.

“The first exploration was made to look for the construction ruin and the records used by the Maya to drain water from the building,” González explained.

It is believed that the mask could represent the facial features of K’inich Janaab ‘Pakal II (603-683 AD), who led his society to be one of the most powerful and opulent, from a political and military point of view, in the western Maya area.

Ritual offerings found by the mask included ceramic figurines and pots, carved bones, jadeite fragments, flint, nacre shell, obsidian and numerous bones of turtles, fish, lizards, crabs, small birds and snails.

“The offerings are usually presented when there is an end of a period, an architectural renovation or the construction of a new building. In this case, it looks like it was a renovation,” said González.

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Elsewhere, the researchers identified a nose-ring made of bone that although it does not belong to Pakal does coincide with its Late Classic period.

“I do not know a naringuera of this type neither in Mayan area, nor in Mesoamérica; it’s unique,” said González.

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