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Newly Discovered Chacmool Sculpture Unveiled at Pátzcuaro Museum

A pre-Hispanic chacmool sculpture, unearthed during construction work in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán on August 30, 2023, is now on permanent display at the Museum of Popular Arts and Industries, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) announced on May 10th.

The sculpture depicts a reclining figure and is crafted from augite andesite, a volcanic rock. Estimated to be from the Late Postclassic period (1350-1521 AD), it weighs approximately 200 kilograms (440 pounds) and measures 0.9 meters (3 feet) long by 0.75 meters (2.5 feet) tall.

Following its discovery, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) undertook a multidisciplinary project to study and conserve the artifact. Archaeologists, restorers, physical anthropologists, and geologists collaborated to clean and restore the ancient sculpture, which was found disassembled.

INAH archaeologists noted the rarity of such large-scale pre-Columbian finds in western Mexico, sparking questions about its presence in the region.

The figure represents a chacmool, a ritual table used in pre-Hispanic societies, possibly for sacrifices and offerings. Despite their distinctive form, the origins and precise use of chacmools remain unclear due to limited archaeological evidence. The well-preserved sculpture offers researchers a valuable opportunity to gain insights into the creation and purpose of these enigmatic artifacts.

Only around 70 chacmools have been discovered in Mesoamerica, according to Museum director Patricia Terán Escobar. This discovery brings the total number of known chacmools in Michoacán to eight. The first documented sculpture, reported by traveler Carl Lumholtz in Pátzcuaro around 1896, is now on display in New York.

Two others were found at the Ihuatzio site in 1908, with one housed in the National Museum of Anthropology and the other in the Michoacan Regional Museum. The latter museum also holds the last previously discovered chacmool, located in 1938 by Alfonso Caso and Jorge Acosta. There is another chacmool in the National Museum of Anthropology collections reportedly from Pátzcuaro, but its origin remains unknown. Two additional sculptures are located in France and Australia.

The public can now view the recently discovered chacmool at the Museum of Popular Arts and Industries in Pátzcuaro, located approximately 370 kilometers (230 miles) west of Mexico City.

With information from INAH

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