‘Maya steamroller,’ which helped build ancient highways, is being restored

85 years after it was discovered, a 1,200-year-old cylinder is being cleaned and stabilized

An ancient "Mayan steamroller" is being restored in Yucatan. Photo: INAH
An ancient “Mayan steamroller” is being restored. Photo: INAH

Restoration work has begun on a “Maya steamroller” that helped pave pre-Hispanic mega highways more than 1,200 years ago.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said the cylindrical relic is being housed in a shelter maintained by the Yucatan highway department. There, restorers Nancy Coronado Guajardo and Afifa Cetina are cleaning and stabilizing the limestone piece, said INAH.

The rolling artifact was found at kilometer 35 of the sacbé that united Cobá and Yaxuná. A sacbé, or “white way,” is a raised paved road built by the Maya civilization to connect temples, plazas and groups of structures within ceremonial centers or cities, or in this case, between cities.

The sacbé that united the Cobá and Yaxuná is considered the most significant example of road engineering in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. The highway was more than 100 kilometers / 62 miles long and 10 meters / 33 feet wide.

The relic was discovered by the distinguished anthropologist and ethnographer, Alfonso Villa Rojas, in 1934. The Merida native was sponsored by the Carnegie Institute when he made landmark studies of the Yaxuná-Cobá sacbé. He died in 1998 at 101 years old.

With information from INAH

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