Loss, Recuperation, and Identity

Charnay/Monumental head at Izamal, Mexico
The monumental stucco mask displayed above no longer exists. Désiré Charnay found the effigy in 1859, while photographing and making casts of Mesoamerican ruins for the Smithsonian Institution in Paris. It was once located at the foot of the Second Pyramid of Izamal, a classic and postclassic Mayan site partially destroyed by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. Better preserved are the geometric relief decorations on the facade of a building at Uxmal (see next image) known as the Nunnery. Charnay's unusual photographs are both valuable records and evocative images of the remains of Mayan civilization.