In the buildings of Calakmul, capital of the Cuchcabal or territory of the Serpent Head, one of the most prominent Mayan lineages of the Classic period, nine funerary masks have been located so far, the largest number within the sites of this ancient culture. The ceremonial mosaic found in the Tomb I of Structure VII in 1984 is so outstanding that it is known as “the Mask of Calakmul”, according to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).After an almost uninterrupted absence between March 2007 and December 2015, during which it was presented in four exhibitions, the Mask of Calakmul now occupies a permanent room at the Museum of Maya Architecture, Baluarte de la Soledad, in the city of Campeche, which has been renovated and opens to the public on July 6, to feature this magnificent face of jade manufactured more than 1,200 years ago, between 660 and 750 AD.The new exhibition with which the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) presents this piece highlights each element that makes up the funerary trousseau of the ancient Mayan sovereign, as well as the offering that accompanied it.
It should be remembered that for the ancient Mayans, their rulers were a manifestation of the divinity on Earth, so that the ceremonial masks with which they were buried gave them the face of the corn god in their transit through the underworld and for their rebirth.
The educator Claudia Escalante, director of Museums of the INAH Campeche Center, says that the piece returned to its site, Room 4 of the Museum of Maya Architecture, Baluarte de la Soledad, in December 2016. However, after an absence of more a decade, “the mask had acquired a monumental importance, not only as part of the cultural heritage of the state of Campeche, but for the country and beyond national borders, so that its original display had been too small for its significance.
The digital resources and curatorial elements presented in the exhibition “La Máscara de Calakmul” were incorporated into this new assembly for the Campeche museum. The piece previously had been presented at the National Museum of Anthropology in 2015, with the curatorship of the educator María del Pilar Cuairán Chavarría.
“Accompanying all the jade trousseau and its offering on display, the room has eight digital dispalys and two animated videos to explain the mask in its relationship with the ancient Mayan worldview, as well as several tactile stations with four different types of jade,” said Pilar Cuairán.
This accessibility project incorporated elements that facilitate travel and visits for people with disabilities, such as ramps, Braille text and audios with contents for the blind and visually impaired, as well as videos in Mexican Sign Language.
In its new room, the Mask of Calakmul, the funerary trousseau of jade and the ceramic offering that accompanies it shine in all their complexity and beauty. The former sovereign was covered from head to toe with garments composed of countless jade beads, such as bracelets, anklets, front band, kilt and five-strand necklace. Its ceremonial belt also has small jade plates.
As a central element of the trousseau, a necklace with large round beads holds a rectangular imperial jade breastplate with the Mayan character ik’ (symbol of the wind that evokes the vital breath and the flow between the different levels of the cosmos). The beauty of jade also shines in the wide, round ring that adorned his hand.
The exhibition hall will be inaugurated Friday, July 6, at 6:00 p.m. The Maya Architecture Museum in the Baluarte de la Soledad, in the fortified city of Campeche, is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, from Tuesday to Sunday.
Text: The Universal