Frederick Catherwood and John Lloyd Stephens spent several months in the Puuc region, as they so admired the architecture and design. As elsewhere, they methodically documented the ruins, measuring and describing the building techniques and materials. The quality of construction and materials (such as mortar or cement) was obvious to them. They also noted some design features and motifs, speculating about their meaning.
Archaeologists have since rediscovered the Maya gods and associated symbologies. Motifs representing snakes (the zig-zagging line) or stone latticework are easily attributed to the Puuc style. Gerometric forms are assumed to be symbols of Maya cosmology. Most impressively, these intricate buildings were sculpted without tools of iron or the use of the wheel to transport materials.
Farming activity, expansion, looting, and erosion threatened these sites. Catherwood brought artifacts to New York hoping to preserve them (though they were destroyed in a fire in 1842). Today, developments in ethics and law require that we respect these sites as the cultural property and heritage of the local Mexican people. The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia is a Mexican federal government bureau established in 1939 to guarantee the research, preservation, protection, and promotion of the prehistoric, archaeological, anthropological, historical, and paleontological heritage of Mexico. It is illegal to disturb or remove any archaeological sites or artifacts today.
© 2018 SFU Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, created by Jackie La Mouri. Photographs courtesy of Dr. Brian Hayden.
- Camera Lucida, Lithographs, and Site Documentation in the 1840s
- Political Climate and Reception in Central America
- Copán, Honduras (1839-1840)
- Quiriguá, Guatemala (1839-1840)
- Palenque, México (1839-1840)
- Uxmal, México (1839-1840 and 1841-1842)
- Labná, México (1841-1842)
- Chichén Itzá, México (1841-1842)
- Tulum, México (1841-1842)
- Colouring Book