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Thursday, May 16 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(New Technologies Meet Timeless Conservation Problems) Broken into Fragments: Analysis, Stabilization, and Conservation of the Maya Murals of San Bartolo, Guatemala

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In 2001, rarely preserved Maya murals were discovered at the remote site of San Bartolo, Guatemala. Archaeological excavations revealed extensive and elaborate wall paintings and numerous hieroglyphic texts buried in successive architectural phases dating from ca. 400-100 B.C. The corpus of paintings found within the Las Pinturas pyramid includes in situ murals and over 7000 fragments from artworks that were intentionally broken into fragments and concealed by the Maya as they dismantled older architecture and to make way for new construction. Today, the mural chamber and the fragment collection have been carefully excavated, stabilized, catalogued, analyzed, and curated, many fragments have been reassembled. These outcomes are the result of a 17-year collaboration between an international team of archaeologists, conservators, artists, engineers, materials scientists, epigraphers, and iconographers from different institutions in the US and Guatemala. This presentation will describe how this cross-disciplinary approach to analysis and preservation of the murals has shed light on how the ancient Maya created, used, and cached the San Bartolo murals. Following will be a description of the practical and resourceful documentation and treatment methods used to conserve the paintings deep in the northeastern lowland jungles of Guatemala and the fragment collection in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología in Guatemala City. Preservation challenges and achievements included rectified documentation, structural stabilization of the excavation tunnels using local materials, use of a pXRF to characterize paints nondestructively and determine of the ‘hands’ of multiple artists in the production of the murals, application of simple, yet well-established conservation techniques in the reattachment and cleaning of the lime plasters, and curation of the fragment collection. Lastly, we will discuss the design of permanent and traveling exhibits and a digital archive that ensure broad access to the murals while establishing protection measures for the site and the collection in light of the extremely under-resourced cultural heritage institutions of Guatemala.

avatar for Heather Hurst

Heather Hurst

Archaeologist, Skidmore College
Heather Hurst is an archaeologist and archaeological illustrator who works in Central America and Mexico. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Yale University in 2009, completing a multi-site investigation of Maya wall paintings in the Guatemalan lowlands. Her illustrations... Read More →

avatar for Angelyn Bass

Angelyn Bass

Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of New Mexico
Angelyn Bass was a conservator on the San Bartolo project, both on site and with the corpus of collected fragments, since 2002. She is a principal at Conservation Associates and Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology with the University of New Mexico specializing in archaeological... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 4:00pm - 4:30pm EDT
Salon B1, Uncas Ballroom
  General Session, New Technologies Meet Timeless Conservation Problems
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Heather Hurst
  • Abstract ID 19157
  • Tags Maya,murals,Guatemala,cultural Heritage,preservation