A giant Mayan mask along the length of a person has been unveiled at an archaeological site in the Mexican state of Yucatan.
The mask, which depicts the face of an unknown god or an elite person, was sculpted from stucco material, and dates back to a period in Maya The date is known as the Late Classical Era (c. 300 BC – AD 250), according to the news outlet Yucatan News.
The discovery was made in 2017 at the Okana archaeological site, near the modern city of Motul, and since then researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH) have worked hard to restore it.
Plaster masks such as these “represent the faces of individuals with certain features that may be associated with gods or figures of prominent social standing,” INAH said in a statement.
The mask is a plaster pattern, which is a type of brightly colored sculpture carved from a stucco background. According to the statement, the Maya usually placed these masks around stairs with hierarchical pedestals. Archaeologists have found similar inscriptions in Akanha and Izmal, but this is the first in Okanha. The find is part of an ongoing search in the Mayan hills located at the site.
The mask was temporarily reburied after its discovery so that the structure is protected so it can be properly studied and preserved. Samples taken from the structure revealed its deterioration, and it was re-excavated in 2018 so that archaeologists could restore it.
During the restoration and preservation process, archaeologists reinforced the fragile parts of the mask. They also moved the sections that had displaced over time to their original sites. They also cleaned surfaces to highlight mask patterns and colors.
Archaeologists completed the work in 2019, before the mask was reburied for the last time. The goal of these efforts is to ensure the long-term preservation of the mask on the site, which has no legal protection, INAH said.
Originally published on Live Science.