IDEAS in Cultural Heritage: Preserving Maya Murals through Imaging, Documentation, Education, Access, and Sustainability


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the Department of Anthropology at Yale University during academic year 2018-2019


Archaeological excavation at San Bartolo, Guatemala, revealed an elaborate artistic program devoted to Maya mythology and a large corpus of hieroglyphic texts painted in a chamber ca. 100 BC. However, the in situ murals buried within the pyramid are only part of the story: the site once contained many more paintings, but these artworks were broken into fragments and concealed by the Maya. This project moves beyond iconography and integrates archaeological evidence and material analysis to consider the murals as potent objects that produced knowledge, but also required them to be destroyed. “IDEAS in Cultural Heritage” pairs a book project that reveals the missing chapters of an epic Maya narrative of creation rendered on the fragile plaster walls at San Bartolo, with a public heritage effort addressing factors that threaten their continued preservation and scholarship. In its dual focus, the project inspires broad discovery of the murals’ cultural legacy.