On the Age of Maya Ruins by Charles P. Bowditch

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Where do we go from here? Do we argue for prisms or against them? I intend neither of these directions. My intent in showing the usefulness of prisms was not to defend them but rather to refute the notion that subjectivity in representations is a bad thing.

Because standards of objectivity change from one generation to the next, the usefulness of a convention derives from the historical circumstances of its deploy- ment. My intent in pointing out the superiority of hachured plans was not to criticize prisms. Rather, it was to show that there is nothing inherent in prisms that can explain why they have become the most commonly used technique. Many writers view the his- tory of archaeology as a natural, if uneven, progression toward better and better science Willey and Sabloff This viewpoint justifies present practice: we do what we do today because it is an advance over the past Trigger But the fact that we have stuck with prisms as opposed to the more advanced hachured plans shows that we have to look differently at the history of archaeology.

At this crossroads, the best option is not to move forward in one direction or the other, but to move backward. Since prisms are not inherently superior, we need to look back in time and provide an alternative answer to the question of why prisms became so popular in Maya maps. Such a longitudinal movement first requires an account of the historical development of prisms and a catalog of competing representational techniques used in the Maya area.

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Though Dupaix noted that the Figure 9. After nine years in central Mexico — , Waldeck visited, among other ruins, Uxmal, whose Temple of the Magician, which he did not climb, inspired the shaded rendition in Figure 9. In addition to exaggerating the length of the superstructure and omitting the midlevel chamber on the west side, Waldeck also missed the fact that the plan of the base of the substructure is ellipti- cal, not rectangular. Waldeck mentions that the pyramid was covered in vegetation, so the actual shape of the temple was not immediately obvious.

But here at Uxmal, the technique begins on a building whose base is not a polygon. Stephens and Catherwood worked together on these maps, with Stephens doing the surveying and Catherwood doing the drafting. The Castillo stands as the only prism in their Chichen map Figure 9. In their Uxmal map, veg- etation accompanies the prisms see Figure 9.

In the Copan map Figure 9. Unlike the shading of the Castillo, the shading of the prisms at Copan suggests steps up to the top of the mounds. The Uxmal and Copan prisms succeed in communi- cating the relative heights of buildings. Charnay would also use polygons at Ake Figure 9. Some are shaded only at the top buildings numbered 1, 5, 6, and 7 in Figure 9.

Though the actual heights of each of the mounds at Ake are different, Charnay drew nearly all of them as if they were the same height. Next came the much more sub- tle prisms of Alfred Maudslay —pl. Unlike his predecessors, Maudslay used professional surveying equipment theodolite, sextant, etc. He also used differential shading Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, , vol.

At other ruins, such as Tikal, Maudslay used down lines in his prisms. Ironically, Teobert Maler himself rarely used prisms, which today are often referred to as malerizations. The best examples come from portions of his maps of Topoxte a; Figure 9. Archaeology, —, vol. During the same period that different varieties of prisms took shape, several other techniques were in use. Charnay Charnay and Viollet- Le-Duc elaborates on the single-outline con- vention in low buildings in his Uxmal map in a way that implies that the exact outline was unknown due to collapsed stones Figure 9.

Merwin and George C. From his central Mexico Figure 9. Adolph Bandelier pls. Back Sakluk, Cankuen, , fig. Reprinted courtesy in Honduras, George Gordon —, fig. William Henry Holmes ——97, pl.

Bowditch, Charles P. (Charles Pickering) (1842-1921)

The use of hachures Harvard University, at Uxmal is intriguing. Holmes was there for only one day and acknowledged that many Cambridge, Mass. Thus, an artistically savvy explorer had maps with prisms in front of him but consciously chose to use hachures instead of prisms when creating his own maps. The fact that a gifted illustrator rejected the use of prisms supports the notion that this technique is not inherently superior. Yet the ultimate origin of these hachured maps was military and civil surveying, since Crocker worked for the British Ordinance Survey before applying his surveying tech- niques to archaeology.

Squier had some training as a civil engineer Meltzer , and his maps closely resemble nonarchaeological maps by his acquaintance J. Despite the early popularity of hachures both in Mesoamerica and elsewhere, prisms became more common than any other technique in the Maya area by the middle of the twentieth century. In fact, prisms moved out of the Maya area and colonized other regions.

Prisms have also gained a foothold in eastern North America Morgan ; Wood and Williams , an area once dominated by hachure maps. Though predominant, prisms are not the only convention in use today. Three of the largest Maya mapping projects to date—Calakmul Folan et al.

Finally, the most meticulous current mapping project, that of Kiuic and sites between it and Labna, avoids prisms when- ever possible Bill Ringle, personal communication, Explaining the Popularity of Prisms Why did prisms gain such popularity in studies of the Maya area? The existence of alter- natives, used by competent and artistically skilled explorers, immediately eliminates the idea that prisms were an obvious or natural choice, or that the other methods were infe- rior and their practitioners incompetent.

Answering the question remains difficult, how- ever, because few people discuss representational conventions used in maps, either in the published literature or in private correspondence.

Exploring the Ancient Mayan Ruins of PALENQUE: into the Jungle - Chiapas Mexico

I have found no nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century comments on specific techniques for depicting ruined buildings. Frederic Putnam, who, as director of the Peabody Museum, oversaw many research expe- ditions, instructed his field-workers to make maps but said nothing specific about drafting techniques. Maler occasionally discussed his maps. Regarding Naranjo, he stated: I made but one architectural plan, since not one facade nor a perfect interior had survived owing to the terrible destruction of buildings by the rank, tropical veg- etation which envelops everything. But between times a plan of the ruins as a whole was made, in which one by one the groups of buildings were arranged in their order.

This plan, which is extremely useful in spite of unavoidable imperfec- tions, plainly shows the exact positions of each of the sculptured stones and is the basis of my description Maler a This quote lays bare the fact that mapping was at most a handmaiden to the documen- tation of sculpture. This, of course, reiterated a bias in favor of elite culture cf. Harley Thompson [] was an exception.

As Joanne Pillsbury and Lisa Trever ; see also Bernal ; Lucas —26 point out, monument-driven studies dominated American archaeology until well into the twentieth century. Thus, one could see prisms as a side effect of the privileging of sculpture, inscriptions, and portable antiquities. Field survey for a map with prisms takes less time than field survey for a contour map. Furthermore, drafting prisms takes less time than drafting hachures. This frees up time for what was thought to be a more important goal: pursuing inscriptions and other objects.

The pursuit of inscriptions helps explain not just the techniques used for representing ruins, but also why explorers mapped only a small portion of any ruin, namely the site centers, where inscriptions were common. If the focus on sculpture helps explain the preference for prisms, what explains the focus on sculpture? Understanding the focus on sculpture requires consideration of multiple factors of the con- text of nineteenth-century archaeology: its goals, its funding sources, its professionaliza- tion, and so forth.

In the following section, I attend to these factors at some length, using unpublished correspondence between researchers and others where possible. Social, Political, and Economic Context of Nineteenth-Century Maya Archaeology Before all else, we need to understand what attracted explorers to the Maya area in the first place.

I begin with what Robert Aguirre calls informal imperialism. Travel by William Bullock, John Lloyd Stephens, and Frederick Catherwood resulted in museum exhibits and books that portrayed the lands of Mexico and Central America as rich and bountiful.

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The inscription lately discovered in Chichen Itza by Edward H. Thompson, United States Consul at Merida, is of more than passing interest. It contains an Initial. Kindle Price: inclusive of all taxes includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet. Sold by: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited.

At the same time, these exhibits and books characterized the contemporary inhabitants as degenerate, freakish, and destined to decline Aguirre xvi; Hinsley Thus, not only did these former colonies have excellent resources, the deroga- tory stereotypes of their inhabitants justified foreign entitlement to these resources.

In , when Putnam cae 5. Informal imperialism involved more than extracting economic resources.

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It also involved purchasing ruins and acquiring antiquities or molds that permitted reproduc- tion at will , both of which demonstrate cultural command over the would-be colony Aguirre The motivations for cultural command over the ancient Maya vary among different colonial powers. Gordon Willey and Jeremy Sabloff have argued that Americans wanted a past as dignified as that of Europe. This desire and Manifest Destiny explains not only the myth of the Mound Builders—the idea that the people who built eastern woodland mounds must have been more sophisticated than the North American natives so despised by settlers—but also the attempts to declare the United States as the rightful steward of the supposedly more advanced Central American native heritage: the ancient Maya Evans Collecting played a role in stewardship of previ- ously inhabited places because it staked a claim to a place and bolstered a sense of belonging and legitimacy Hinsley In particular, in the early s Smithsonian secretary Spencer Baird was able to convince Congress to allocate funds to the Bureau of American Ethnology to begin collecting artifacts in the American West as a response to other coun- tries extracting antiquities from the United States Meltzer Informal imperialism, therefore, not only furnishes an understanding of foreign inter- est in the Maya but also helps explain the focus on antiquities such as sculpture.

Many other factors beyond cultural imperialism led to the pursuit of carvings, however. Collecting sculpture and making copies of it was no longer as closely connected to patriotism in the late nineteenth century, when mapping Maya ruins became more common. The Peabody Museum serves as an excellent case study for exploring the motivation to collect sculpture because of its lead roles in both the exploration of the Maya area and the professional- ization of archaeology.

The mandate to showcase early artifacts put the Peabody Museum at a disadvantage when it came to raising funds. Most donors felt that putative ice age stone tools from New Jersey did not do as good a job teaching about humanity as did classical sculptures from Greece. This was a common nineteenth-century sentiment; a major rationale for state-sponsored German archaeology at Olympus, for example, was that Greek antiquities could enhance German appreciation of beauty and knowledge for its own sake Marchand In the s, techniques for the mass duplication of photographs allowed for broad cir- culation of photos of Maya sculptures that attested to artistic genius in Pre-Columbian America Evans These sculptures, like those of ancient Greece, could teach the kind of morals dear to potential Boston Brahmin patrons Hinsley — One of these patrons, Charles Bowditch, had just returned from a trip to Central America and wanted to sponsor a museum expedition focused on the Maya Hinsley The museum first sup- ported Edward H.

Thompson , a, b , who was already at Labna with American Antiquarian Society funding. Collecting antiquities was an important goal of the Peabody Museum expedition to Copan. In his instructions to the staff of the first field season — —Saville, Owens, Price, and Dodge—Putnam cae 5. But exactly how does collecting play a role in science? This way, Putnam cae 1. Putnam cae 1. Of course, the scientific reasons for amassing collections were not the only ones.

George Stocking notes that in the late nineteenth century, many private funders of muse- ums made their money producing consumer goods and expected the procurement of goods from the field as a return on their investment in the museum.