Skip to comments.Archaeologists Find Mayan 'Masterpiece' In Guatemala
Posted on 03/14/2002 4:42:29 PM PST by blam
March 14, 2002
Archaeologists Find Mayan 'Masterpiece' in Guatemala
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
rchaeologists exploring deep in the rain forest of Guatemala have uncovered what they think is the earliest intact wall painting of the Maya civilization. A depiction of scenes from mythology and ritual, the 1,900-year-old mural is being hailed by experts as a masterpiece.
Even though only part of the mural has been exposed so far, scholars said the scenes and portraits promised rare insights into the society and religion of the Maya. The paintings, dated about A.D. 100, are described as more extensive and better preserved than the only other existing piece of Pre-Classic wall art. What is known as the Maya Classic period lasted from A.D. 250 to about A.D. 900.
"It opens a window into the mythological and courtly life of the ancient Maya," said Dr. William Saturno, a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire and researcher at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard.
Dr. Saturno led the team that found the mural in a buried room at the ruins of San Bartolo, a Maya ceremonial site that was previously unknown to archaeologists, in an uninhabited part of northeastern Guatemala. The discovery is being announced by the National Geographic Society, which supported the research, and is publishing an article on the findings in the April issue of its magazine.
A wall painting found at San Bartolo is about 1,900 years old.
Dr. David A. Freidel, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, was not a team member but has studied pictures and drawings of the mural scenes. To help bring the faded mural to life and possible understanding, an artist working with the researchers has studied photographs and drawn outlines of the scenes.
"It's as fine a mural as I've ever seen painted in Mesoamerica," Dr. Freidel said, referring to the region of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras where the pre- Columbian Maya culture thrived. "The quality of the execution, the composition itself, the beautifully rendered faces this is a master at work and a masterpiece of visual art."
Dr. Saturno said that luck and exhaustion entered into the discovery. Arriving at the San Bartolo site exhausted after a three-day journey, he sought shade in a tunnel that looters had dug near an 80-foot pyramid. He turned a flashlight on the dark tunnel wall.
"There was this Maya mural, a very rare thing," he recalled. "The looters had cleared off a section and left it. I felt like the luckiest man on the planet."
The visible part is about six feet long and more than two feet high, but this may be only 10 percent of the total painting. The archaeologists said that traces of the border and other clues suggest that the entire mural wraps around the room. Most of the room, which adjoins the pyramid, is still filled with dirt and rubble.
Joining Dr. Saturno in subsequent studies of the site were Dr. David Stuart, also of Harvard's Peabody Museum, and Dr. Héctor Escobedo of the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala. They determined the approximate date of the mural by comparing its style and content with the only previously known but poorly preserved paintings from the Pre- Classic period, those from the much grander Guatemalan site of Tikal.
In the painting, at least nine people are standing or kneeling in a scene surrounded by geometric designs. The dominant figure is a man standing and looking back over his shoulder at two kneeling women.
Dr. Karl Taube, a scholar of iconography at the University of California at Riverside, said the scene may depict an important ritual in Maya mythology, the "dressing of the maize god."
Dr. Freidel, a co-author of "Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path" (Morrow, 1993), said that it was more likely that the figure was not meant to be the maize god himself, but a ruler who is impersonating the god in a ceremony of regeneration associated with the season of planting and the season of nourishing rain.
"The mural tells me that in the Pre-classic period, even before advanced writing, we see the king performing the kind of creation stories as we see later in the Classic period," Dr. Freidel said.
But Dr. Stuart cautioned, "The painting is so early that we are not quite sure how to look at it."
Show me the data!
Who ever said humans came "out of Asia", OR that "civilization first appeared in the Americas"? I'm confused.
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I think it was painted last week on a 1,900 year old wall using 1,900 year old paint by a rogue bunch of liberal archeologists who need to publish.
"A wall painting found at San Bartolo is about 1,900 years old." I think it was painted last week on a 1,900 year old wall using 1,900 year old paint by a rogue bunch of liberal archeologists who need to publish.Ah, wit. How well I remember. How do you know they're liberal? Because they've got degrees?
Okay. Go to post #4 on this thread, click on 'Gods, Graves, Glyphs', Then scroll down to the thread titled, "Calico: A 200,00-Year Old Site In The Americas?"