TULUM, Mexico – December 2023 marked the completion of a significant restoration phase involving seven figures of descending gods and murals at the Tulum Archaeological Zone in Quintana Roo. This project is part of the broader efforts associated with the Maya Train development, spearheaded by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Under the meticulous guidance of Patricia Meehan Hermanson, the project aimed to revive the emblematic figures and frescoes that define the identity of the Eastern Maya Coast. Jesús Antonio Muñoz Cinta, a key restorer, highlighted the unique contorted position of the descending god figures, suggesting a human form in mid-fall, a motif found across Mesoamerica but with a prominent place in the architecture and art of the Eastern Coast, particularly in Tulum, Cobá, and Tancah.
The restoration involved delicate cleaning, adhesion of fragments, filling of voids, and color reintegrations, thereby safeguarding these invaluable artifacts. Notably, the work extended to Tulum’s most iconic buildings: the Temples of the Frescos and the Descending God, the Chultún House, the Halach Uinic House, and El Castillo, all bearing representations of this deity.
As of the recent field season, seven descending god figures have been preserved in Tulum, including two in the Temple of the Frescos (Building 16) and one in the House of the Halach Huinik (Building 25), which is among the best-preserved and most striking. The Temple of the Descending God houses another significant figure, lending its name to Building 5, which also retains a large portion of its original paintwork. Additional vestiges were discovered in a niche in Building 20, while El Castillo (Building 1) boasts two figures, one at the center of the temple’s frieze and another in a complex mural scene in the vaulted passageway.
This restoration project not only underscores the rich cultural heritage of Tulum but also reflects the broader commitment to preserving Mexico’s archaeological treasures amid modern development projects like the Maya Train. The successful conservation of these artifacts offers a glimpse into the sophisticated artistry and religious practices of the ancient Maya civilization, providing both locals and visitors with a deeper connection to the region’s past.
As Tulum continues to evolve as a global tourist destination, the integration of cultural preservation with infrastructure development presents a model for sustainable tourism. The efforts of INAH and its dedicated professionals ensure that the legacy of the Maya, and particularly the unique iconography of the descending god, remains a vibrant part of the landscape.