Friday, November 27, 2009

Alberto Ruz, Palenque and Nelson Rockefeller

In at least two of the INAH Anales reports regarding Palenque, Alberto Ruz thanked Nelson Rockefeller for the funding he contributed to the excavation projects at the site. When I read this statement, it sparked my curiosity, so I contacted the Rockefeller Foundation archives to see what I could discover about it. They sent me copies of several pieces of correspondence (1947- 1958) between Ruz, Rockefeller and the members of the Institute of Andean Research. This institute was the organization through which Rockefeller funneled the money - apparently for political reasons. Above is a picture of Rockefeller on the cover of Life magazine when Life did a story on the Museum of Primitive Art.

Above is a picture of Alberto Ruz. One of the stipulations regarding the receipt of the Rockefeller funds was that they were to go hand-in-hand with the money that the Mexican government was putting into the project. In 1955, Rockefeller requested a summary of all the funds contributed by INAH as compared to his. According to Ruz' accounting, between 1947 and 1955, Rockefeller had contributed 40% of the entire budget for the project, with INAH putting in 60%. From the tone of the correspondence between these two great men, it is possible to see that they were very warm friends. Time and time again, Ruz invited the Rockefellers to Palenque and finally they did make one visit. Ruz wrote in 1956 "My wife and I have the fondest remembrances of yours and Mrs. Rockefeller's brief stay among us." He was referencing Rockefeller's first wife, Mary Todhunter Clark, who also would eventually contribute money to the project.

Nelson Rockefeller and Mary Todhunter Clark Rockefeller

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Greater Cross Group at Palenque

As I have written before, the most famous building group at Palenque is the group that contains the Temple of the Sun, Cross and the Foliated Cross. All three temples face inward toward a raised central platform that was probably used for ceremonial purposes. All three buildings have inner sanctuaries with carved monuments that have text and iconography of a similar theme. They were all built at the same time by the same ancient Maya ruler. This area is truly sacred ground, but as archaeologists who have explored the buildings to the south of this triadic complex have discovered, the sacred ground extends at least 250 meters south and then west along the Otolum River. I have labeled this area the "Greater Cross Group". It includes around 24 temples, some of which have been consolidated (restored). Others have been excavated, but remain in rubble, such as the twin temples of XVIII and XVIIIa. With the exception of Temple XVII, none of these buildings to the south of the triadic complex are accessible to the public.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Questionnaire for Archaeologists - The Use of Digital Technologies During Excavation

As part of my dissertation research project, I have developed a questionnaire on Survey Monkey in hopes that I will be able to gather statistical information about how archaeologists are using digital technology during archaeological excavations. If any my readers out there have worked at an excavation site within the last two or three years, I would be honored and grateful if you could complete this survey. Also, pass this link to others who might be interested.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Palenque's Greatest Story Teller

My sweetheart David came to Palenque to take me home after the accident, but before we left, we spent some time reminiscing with Don Moises Morales. In case you don't know him, I should give you some background. David and Linda Schele met Moises Morales 39 years ago during their very first visit to Palenque. Gillette Griffin (1991) writes that Moises was “that very special man who had shared the magic of Palenque with thousands of pilgrims over the years. Moises took the Scheles and their party for a walk deep into the jungle. He showed them the beautiful cascades that splash down into stone basins under the dense jungle canopy, and revealed to them the presence of ruined walls and buildings everywhere.” Another well-known Palenque scholar, Merle Green Robertson identifies Don Moises Morales as "the greatest 'storyteller' in all Palenque.

The picture above was taken just after David and I finished having lunch at El Panchan It's a very fine restaurant that sits adjacent to the ancient site of Palenque, but is within the Morales family compound. You can see that my cast is gone and is replaced by a brace, since the broken wrist isn't healed yet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

La Mujer Bionica

My daughter's boyfriend, Richard, gave me kudos for sharing a picture of my cyborg arm with the family (the device is actually called an external fixation device), so I decided that I should blog it too.

As you can see here, the scabs on my face are gone and the redmarks are slowly disappearing. Doña Mary is cleaning my wrist in this picture.

Now, I want you to meet two people who are very important in my life right now. This is a picture of Doña Mary and her granddaughter, Elsa. They prepare my food, help me with my bath, do my laundry AND on top of that, they are helping me improve my conversational Spanish. Here you see them all dressed up and ready for the annual Palenque Feria. In case you may be wondering about the carved monument to the right, it represents K'inich Akul Mo' Nab' (one of the kings of Palenque) -- a beautiful carving that Alfonso has placed in his front yard.

And now, because of all the prayers and assistance that I have gotten from friends and family -- ESPECIALLY THE HELP I GOT FOM KIKE MORALES (Alfonso's Brother), I am finally able to turn my attention back to exploring and documenting the excavation history of the Group of the Cross (from the 1700's to the 2000's). The above is a photo of a very unassuming file cabinet that contains lots of awesome history about the Group of the Cross Project (1997 - 2001) and Alfonso has given me access to it, as well as to so many other documents in his library. To learn more about the "Group of the Cross Project" go to:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Falling for Felines

This time, my post is not about my dissertation work or about ancient Palenque, but rather about a temporary setback I am experiencing due to an unfortunate miscalculation I made while trying to keep some newborn kitties from getting soaked from an approaching rainstorm. It happened the afternoon of July 10th at the house where I am staying in the town of Palenque, Mexico.

Mommy kitty had given birth in an outside corner of the house. There is a small overhang above, but there are very strong winds that blow through here, so I decided to go upstairs to the flat roof above to see what I could do to protect them. This is a top view of the corner.

On the roof, I saw some sheet metal that I could simply move over a few feet so that it would overhang the corner and add protection (the sheet metal has now been moved back to the other side). Somehow, as I was doing this, I lost track of where the edge of the roof was located. If I had been standing, I would have noticed the location of the wooden railing that goes along the edge, but I was in a squatting position the whole time, as I moved the sheet metal over.

I then stepped on a portion of the sheet metal that was not stable and went tumbling down.

The distance I fell measures about 4 or 5 meters.

This is where I landed.

This picture of my wounded self was taken July 15th - 5 days after the accident. One wrist has pins in it and the other is in a cast. I looked pretty bad, but I am healing very well now and I continue to receive lots of prayers and assistance from loved ones and friends. Hey, I can even blog now! Life is good.

Soon after the Mexican Red Cross ambulance took me on the harrowing two-hour ride to the hospital in Villahermosa, mommy kitty moved her brood into the kitchen cabinet, next to the stove. All safe and sound now. Aren't they cute?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SAA Slides, GIScience and Temple of the Cross

Hello friends. The FTP site where I had previously stored several of the links in my last post is no longer working, so I have uploaded my files to another Internet location (Google Docs) and I have now updated my previous blog posting as can be seen below.

Here is the slide presentation that I created for the 2009 Society of American Archaeologists Conference in Atlanta:

Here is the new link to the Palenque Flyover:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cache Configuration - Temple of Cross

The above map displays all the caches that have been excavated as of this date, inside the Temple of the Cross sanctuary and Temple building.  The colors correspond to the names of the explorer or archaeologist that discovered them. I have superimposed a drawing of the "principal bird deity" (Titiana Proskouriakoff''s reconstruction) onto the cornice of the inner sanctuary.  The results are an interesting configuration.  You might need to enlarge the map to see this bird better. From this perspective, it looks as though there is a correlation between the location of the purple caches and the wings of the bird deity.  If you assume that the bird is diving down, he also might be headed for the purple cache (one directly in front of him) and three yellow caches, perhaps scooping them up as he dives.

This is the complete reconstructed drawing that Tatiana did of the sanctuary.  Isn't it amazing? But now you can see that the purple caches under the wings also correlate to the location of the two figures under each wing.  Perhaps those caches were meant for them.  The figure on the right is the deity commonly called "God L" and the one on the left is K'inich Kan B'ahlam dressed in the guise of an ancient ancestor (Stuart 2006).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Clarification on the Term "Incensario"

I just realized that some of my readers might not have know what I was referring to in my previous post when I wrote the term Palenque "incensario".  The image above is an example of an incensario that was found in the terraces of the Temple of the Cross. In reality, these large ceramic artifacts are believed to be the stands that went on top of the incensario (Spanish word for censor).  The censors and their associated stands were used by ancient Palencanos to burn incense for the veneration of their 3 major gods.
Above is an image of a North American totum pole.  The man standing beside the pole is unidentified in the book from which I scanned this photo (Nabokov and Easton 1989).  The reason that I include a picture of a totum pole here is because Miguel Angel Fernandez, an archaeologist who excavated at Palenque in the 1940's was one of the first to notice the resemblance of the incensarios to North American totum poles.  According to Alfonso Morales, one of the more recent archaeologist who has worked at Palenque, the earliest term used to describe the "porta-incensarios" was "cilindro".

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bird's Eye View from El Mirador Hill

Using ArcScene, I was able to create another model of the Palenque site and this is a view of the site from El Mirador hill.  On top of the hill, you can see a crude model of an ancient structure. David Stuart (2006:92) has interpreted the glyphs that refer to this mountain as "the descending Quetzal Big Mountain".  It definitely gives us a "bird's eye view", doesn't it?

One of my most important tasks in developing a GIS Palenque is to catalog and geocode the incensarios and their pictures. Above is a screen shot of my use of Excel and Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer) to try to match pictures to each artifact.  Having a unique catalog number is a major key in my research, so I must not only keep track of the old artifact number, but create unique new ones, since the old ones often have duplicated numbers that were assigned from various excavation projects at the site.  To my knowledge, there is no centralized database of all the excavations that have been done at this site.  These pictures are from Martha Cuevas' dissertation about the incensarios.

My next task is to create links of all those pictures to each of the little dots on the map that represent the incensarios.  In this way, you can use the "lighting cursor" to click on each dot and a picture of that specific incensario will appear in a pop-up window.

Another one of my research tasks is to comb through the old records and written narratives to try to reconstruct the location of the tombs and caches that were not properly documented. Some of the first archaeological discoveries at Palenque were done before archaeology actually became a science and before the age of portable cameras.  Therefore, early discoveries were not properly documented, however some early explorers wrote down what they found. Above is map that I created to try to determine the location of "a series of sealed tombs" that Edward Thompson discovered in the late 19th century.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What a Mess

One of the most important things that I must do in order to move forward with my dissertation research is to establish artifact typologies and classifications. I have spent the last two weeks working on these classifications and I think that I have finally made some progress. Above is a photo of only a few of the lists and categories that I have created, deleted and edited.

This painful and confusing process has helped me decide upon what feature datasets and feature classes I should create in ArcGIS and what corresponding Excel spreadsheets that I should formulate so that I can link the spreadsheets into the map. Above is a screenshot of ArcCatalog where you can see some of my categories. By entering artifact numbers into the appropriate feature class category and then placing that same artifact number in the Excel spreadsheet containing data about that artifact, I will be able to link the map with the data in a simple manner that even novice GIS users can replicate. One of my research goals is to try to figure out how to encourage Mesoamerican archaeologists to use GIS applications and I think that this linking method will help.