Regarding information published in the web of a Spanish newspaper about the “discovery” of a “painted pyramid” in Calakmul Archaeological Zone, Campeche, “that offers unknown keys concerning Maya civilization”, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) specifies that the finding is not new; it was registered in 2004 as part of a research project conducted and supported by this Institute for over 10 years.

The mural painting was located in 2004 at the south façade of Building 1, in the area known as North Acropolis or Chik Naab, and has been dated in the Early Classic period (450-500 AD). Masculine and feminine characters presumably preparing a ritual, festivity or quotidian celebration are observed.

Information published by the Spanish diary comes from an academic article that appeared recently in the American publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and was written by Ramon Carrasco Vargas, INAH archaeologist and responsible of Calakmul Archaeological Project; Veronica A. Vazquez, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Simon Martin from University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, edited by Michael D. Coe from Yale University, as part of international divulgation tasks.

In an opportune way, the finding was announced by INAH, and has been reported in several occasions through divulgation articles in academic and massive media, such as Veronica A. Vazquez article Pintura Mural y Arquitectura como Medios de Transmision Ideologica en el Clasico Temprano: la Acropolis de Chik Naab de la Antigua Calakmul (Mural Painting and Architecture as Ideological Transmission Media in the Early Classic: Chik Naab Acropolis of Ancient Calakmul) published by the Campeche Autonomous University in 2006.

The Mexican magazine Arqueologia Mexicana published in its 75th volume corresponding to September-October 2005, named Ultimos Descubrimientos Mayas en Campeche (New Maya Findings at Campeche), an article written by Carrasco Vargas and Marines Colon regarding the ancient city.

Calakmul Archaeological Project (PAC) began in 1993 as an initiative of INAH and the Campeche State Government, which has resulted in important archaeological findings such as the mural painting found in 2003 related to quotidian Maya activities, and a modeled frieze 20 meters long and 3 meters wide dated from 300-400 AD, which represents characters and motives.

Calakmul Archaeological Project coordinates no less than 3 lines of investigation (each one executed with different timing): Archaeology, integrating structure exploration and analysis of ceramic and lithic material found; Conservation, including restoration tasks; and Epigraphy, which interprets Maya hieroglyphs.

Regarding the murals, Carrasco Vargas declared that “They are unique paintings because they can be qualified as ethnographic, since they represent the organization of a feast: people is making, serving and eating food; they capture how Maya dressed, how daily life was, not deities or wars. This imparts a special value since we have, for the first time, elements to imagine how Maya people were in their quotidian life”.

Mural painting is 2.6 meters long by 1.1 wide, and has undergone a special conservation and restoration procedure conducted by an interdisciplinary team. Covers have been constructed to allow regulation of humidity and temperature and keep them in the same situation they had 1,000 years ago. In this way, alteration of chemical and physical conditions of material has been avoided.

It is a slow process carried out by INAH and the University of Florence, Italy (UNIFI) by its Chemistry Department expert Dr. Piero Baglioni, which consists in using a state of the art technology based on calcium hydroxide nanoparticles, commented Carrasco Vargas, remarking that its good results will allow advancing in mural painting conservation.

“Five years ago we began determining the amount of nanoparticles to apply, considering factors such as tropical weather variations, and with time we have achieved optimal results. The mural has practically the same conservation state than when we found it”, declared the archaeologist.
He added that the mural painting is being monitored permanently to determine lapses when nanoparticles must be re-applied. The INAH archaeologist concluded saying that archaeology, physical anthropology, epigraphy, restoration, engineering and architecture experts from diverse national and international institutions collaborate with the project.