Archaeologists restore Aztec snake head uncovered in 2022 quake

Amidst the injury, the 2022 Mexico Metropolis earthquake unearthed a outstanding relic of town’s previous: a large Mexica snake head, now being restored in its unique colours by specialists on the Nationwide Institute of Archaeology and Historical past (INAH).

The five hundred-year-old stone carving was discovered buried 4.5 meters below a constructing within the Historic Heart, within the ruins of the Mexica (often known as Aztec) capital of Tenochtitlán, after the 7.6-magnitude quake disturbed the bottom above it. It measures 1.8 meters lengthy, 1 meter excessive and 85 centimeters large, with an estimated weight of 1.2 tonnes.

A close up shot of painted stone snake scales
The snake head was painted with black, white, crimson, blue and ochre pigments. (LANCIC/UNAM)

Throughout restoration work, researchers have been struck by the coloured pigments nonetheless overlaying 80% of the sculpture’s floor, which make it the best-preserved piece of pre-Hispanic coloration work discovered on a carving up to now.

“The identical mixtures of mud and water that lined it for greater than half a millennium, additionally allowed its stucco to be preserved together with traces of ochre, crimson, blue, black and white,” the INAH defined in a press release.

The restoration has centered on permitting the sculpture to lose its humidity regularly, as fast drying might injury the fragile colours. For that reason, the snake head is being saved in a sealed humidity chamber, the place its dampness will be continually regulated.

Thanks to those interventions, “it has been doable to stabilize the colours for preservation in virtually all of the sculpture, which is extraordinarily vital, as a result of the colours have helped us to conceive pre-Hispanic artwork from one other perspective,” INAH archaeologist Erika Robles Cortés advised Dwell Science.

A close up photo of the eye of a carved stone snake
The snake head is being slowly delivered to ambient humidity in a particular climate-controlled chamber, to forestall injury to the unique paint colours. (LANCIC/UNAM)

In the meantime, a workforce led by archaeologist Moramay Estrada Vásquez is learning the sculpture to ascertain its precise age and symbolism.

“It’s doable that it dates from the final stage of town, that’s, it could date from the reign of Ahuízotl or the reign of Moctezuma,” Patricia Ledesma Bouchan, director of the Templo Mayor Museum within the Historic Heart, advised El Common.

She added that quite a few different snake heads have been found within the space, reflecting the significance of serpents in Mexica iconography. The Mexica deity Quetzalcoatl is continuously depicted as a snake, though researchers haven’t but confirmed that this sculpture represents him.

For now, the sculpture remains to be closed to the general public, as any variation in its microclimate might injury it. However discussions are underway about how finest to exhibit it after the stabilization course of is full, presumably as early as subsequent 12 months.

“We’re nonetheless defining the proper place for its exhibition; we should wait to see how the piece reacts and if it’ll require long-term therapy,” Ledesma stated. “In 2024, we might already be capable of see it.”

With experiences from Dwell Science and El Common

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