The main purpose of this web site is to make available enough
large, high quality, color images that viewers may explore
these world famous Maya cities on their own. Of course, photographs
are a completely inadequate substitute for the experience
of climbing the Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal, observing
the sun moving across the sculptured masks of the Codz Poop
at Kabah, or watching archaeologists as they study and restore
partially collapsed buildings. But not everyone has the opportunity
to visit these archaeological sites, and even those who do
will rarely have time to explore even the major buildings
in depth or to view the hundreds of mosaic patterns and sculptures
on the facades. Moreover, study of these cities benefits from
comparing early drawings, prints, and photographs, which allow us to trace the ongoing changes over
the years. This web site attempts to publish more in-depth
visual documentation of this world heritage site than has
previously been available on the web, CDs, or in print. I hope it may also
persuade some viewers that this is one of the places on earth
that they absolutely must see for themselves.
Audience and Contents
The primary audience I have in mind is college and university
students, though I hope that this web site proves of interest to
others as well. For those already
familiar with these archaeological sites, I hope that previously unpublished early photographs, recent photographs of previously unpublished views and details, and the extensive annotated bibliography may be useful. For the scholars on whose research and publications this web site so heavily depends, I hope that this web site will support their work. Most especially, I hope
that the comparative photographs and captions will exemplify
the impressive, on-going work of Mexican archaeologists and
demonstrate the importance of their on-site research and restorations.
This web site includes over 1000 photographs I have taken on site,
with descriptive captions, including architectural and sculptural details, paint remains, and interior spaces, not previously published. In addition, there are over 250 19th century drawings, prints
and photographs and another 300 by early 20th century scholars, many previously unpublished, showing the
appearance of these four cities before the extensive restoration
campaigns of the twentieth century.
I have tried to use common language rather than the sometimes
specialized language and numbering of professional archaeology.
For architectural terms and names of buildings, I have used
the most common English forms, sometimes adding in parentheses
the Spanish and/or Yucatec Mayan terms.
In recent years the study of the ancient Maya has opened up
new approaches that dramatically alter and enrich our understanding
of the Maya world. This web site does not deal directly with
many of these major topics, such as the reading of hieroglyphs or
identification of agricultural systems and trade routes, much less with the larger
society-wide interpretations that these are making possible.
Instead, the focus of this web site is on the visible, physical
remains of these four cities; on their conservation, restoration, and reconstruction; and on the diverse ways in which they have been imaged. Of course, with few exceptions, we can only see and photograph
those portions that have been cleared and in some cases restored.
Thousands of domestic buildings at these cities were constructed
largely of long gone perishable materials, and even the domestic
stone platforms or foundations that remain are visible only
on rare occasions when some are briefly cleared for archaeological
study. Hundreds of mounds of stones in the Puuc region, covered
with vegetation, have never been explored. Even the cleared
buildings and plazas of the civic-religious-ceremonial centers,
which were originally covered with plaster and stucco and
colorfully painted, are now bare limestone, partially collapsed,
weathered, some still overgrown.
Nonetheless, the visible remains are astonishingly beautiful
and informative. They richly reward extended looking. As put best by David Drew: “Maya architecture is various in its local traditions, from the stark grandeur of Tikal or Chichén Itzá to the gentler refinement of Palenque or Copán. But Uxmal, with its spacious courts and quadrangles, varied elevations and vistas and sense of proportion and balance between architectural form and ornament, displays a sophisticated aesthetic all of its own, where one directly senses the intelligence of architects at work" (Drew, 1999, p. 362).
Some of the most important texts on the Maya and some of the highest quality drawings, prints, and photographs of Maya sites were published in 19th and early 20th century books dealing with the Yucatán. In recent decades, Maya scholarship has been served by an
extraordinary surge in studies of very high quality. This web site
is heavily dependent on these previous publications, especially the detailed studies of Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Labná, and the Puuc Region. I think of this web
publication partly as a photographic supplement to the major books and articles described in the annotated bibliography. Moreover, many 19th and early 20th century drawings, paintings, and photographs have never been published. As credited with each image, several outstanding research institutions have generously allowed some of these to be reproduced here. There remain, of course, significant bodies of unpublished photographs in scholars' personal research collections and in various institutional archives. The most important body of unpublished material, especially for the history of restoration, is the annual fieldwork reports submitted to the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, housed in the INAH archives, a few of which have been published.
Advantages of Web Publication
Over the years, I have found that published images available for the study of works of art, most notably for sculpture and architecture, are inadequate even for informed class discussion. Too often, the questions that naturally arise cannot be answered from the images available. This is an even more serious problem for more in-depth study, such as student projects, reports and term papers. The web revolution is making it possible for the first time to provide the number and range of images needed for seriously exploring works of art and architecture. Large collections of images previously available only in research libraries and archives are gradually being made available on the web. I hope this web site will also support
the web publication of scholars'
personal research materials. This is especially important
where in-depth study is dependent on extensive photo documentation,
unlikely ever to find its way into print, whatever the subject.
Moreover, print publications only rarely include annotated bibliographies,
even though authors are in an ideal position to provide them; and when provided they are usually very brief. The web now encourages more informative annotations, with separate organization and search by author, title, date, and subject.
Any recommendations for how this web site might be made more
useful, especially for college and university teaching and research, will be much
Professor Emeritus, Art History
Portland, Oregon, USA