Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have uncovered a pre-Hispanic sculpture of Chac Mool in the municipality of Pátzcuaro in Mexico.
This remarkable discovery has prompted an archaeological rescue project launched by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico, in collaboration with the INAH Michoacán Center, to expand explorations in the immediate vicinity of this stone artifact.
The sculpture, crafted from basalt, is an imposing piece, measuring 90 centimeters in length, 80 centimeters in height, and weighing an estimated 200 kilograms. According to archaeologist José Luis Punzo Díaz, who is affiliated with the INAH Michoacán Center, the importance of this find cannot be overstated. It represents the first Chac Mool sculpture discovered in the context of Pátzcuaro, which makes it an exceedingly rare and valuable artifact.
Chac Mool sculptures are distinct Mesoamerican artworks characterized by reclining male figures, often with their heads turned to the side. These sculptures are known to date back to the Postclassic period (AD 900-1521) in Mesoamerican history. Historically, these figures have been linked to ritual tables used in pre-Hispanic times, with speculation suggesting their involvement in ceremonies involving sacrifices and offerings.
As of now, no archaeological materials or associated artifacts have been uncovered alongside the sculpture, leading experts to posit that it might have been removed from its original location and subsequently buried within the construction fill of the town of Pátzcuaro. This scenario raises questions about its provenance and journey to its current location.
What makes this discovery even more exceptional is the rarity of large pre-Columbian artistic creations in western Mexico. Typically, such sculptures are more commonly associated with other regions in Mesoamerica, such as Tula, Hidalgo; Chichén Itzá, Yucatán; and the Templo Mayor in Mexico City.
The recently discovered Chac Mool sculpture has been carefully removed and is currently in the custody of the INAH, where specialists have initiated comprehensive analyses to assess its state of preservation and gather more insights into its historical significance.
Notably, the find in Pátzcuaro adds to a select group of Chac Mool sculptures known as the “Ihuatzio chacmool” located in Michoacán. Two of these sculptures were excavated in 1908 and are currently on display at the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) and the Michoacán Regional Museum. Another specimen was discovered by Alfonso Caso and Jorge Acosta in 1938. Furthermore, there is an additional Chac Mool in the collections of the MNA, although the context of its origin remains a mystery.