U.S. and Mexico collaborate to restore Pakal's tomb

INAH experts aim to restore the crypt with funds provided by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico
Archeological site of Palenque in Chiapas – Photo: Mauricio Marat/INAH
05/12/2017
12:49
Abida Ventura
Palenque, Chiapas
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It smells of humidity. With every step we descend, temperature rises and the steps become slippery. Filtrations are visible on the walls. Here, at the heart of the Temple of Inscriptions lie the remains of Pakal, the greatest ruler of this Pre-hispanic city, who governed from 615 to 683 B.C. His tomb has remained closed to the public for over a decade to avoid further deterioration.

Yesterday, the tomb – which can only be reached after descending 69 steps from the apex of the Temple of Inscriptions – was visited by authorities of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and representatives of the U.S. Government to celebrate the cultural collaboration both countries will launch to restore the deterioration of the sarcophagus and some of the structures of the adjacent building, in the architectonical complex known as The Palace. A collaboration which, in words of U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, is key in showing the relationship between the two countries “remains strong in many areas.”

The project, scheduled to begin in 2018, will be executed by INAH researchers and financed by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

With the USD$500,000 the U.S. Government will provide, the coordinators of the project  – restorer Haydée Orea and archeologist Arnoldo González – will focus on addressing the issue of humidity, filtrations, and temperature change at the crypt which have caused severe damages to the walls; in addition of restoring architectonic elements, such as a series of nine stucco figures surrounding the sarcophagus, which represent the Lords of the Night, the eternal guardians of the ruler.

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(Pakal's tomb. Photo: Mauricio Marat/INAH)

After the tomb was closed to the public, INAH researchers began monitoring the venue to evaluate its preservation status, yet for this project, experts from the National Coordination of Cultural Heritage Preservation, the INAH Center in Chiapas, and the National School of Preservation, Restoration, and Museography “Manuel Castillo Negrete,” will place new technological devices to “gather the necessary information to make adequate decisions regarding preservation actions,” mainly on the stucco figures who join the ruler on his journey to the underworld.

Another area to be restored will be The Palace, located in the main square of this ancient city. The Palace is considered the largest section of Palenque and water filtration in ceilings and humidity have deteriorated its mural paintings and other decorative elements.

The project is set to begin in January, although Liliana Giorguli, of the National Coordination of Cultural Heritage Preservation, mentioned this project will be complicated and could take more than three years to be concluded.

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