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The Maya Vase Conservation Project

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Author(s): Lynn Alexandra Grant, Elin Danien
Published: 2006
ISBN: 9781931707879

The Maya Vase Conservation Project
Museum goers are always fascinated by behind-the-scenes glimpses of the way museum professionals prepare artifacts and works of art for exhibit and study. In this richly illustrated, step-by-step presentation, Grant describes the problems of conserving and preserving the only provenienced collection of a group of 19 important Maya vases excavated early in the twentieth century in Chama, Guatemala, by Robert Burkitt, an early investigator for the University Museum. This polychrome pottery was crafted in a unique style that emerged suddenly, flowered briefly in the early eighth century AD, and within 50 years ceased to be made. The gifted Chamá artists, whose control of color, line, and composition has been admired by collectors as well as curators, were also appreciated by other ancient Maya artists, who placed pictures of Chamá-style vessels in the narrative scenes painted on other polychromes.

Yet almost nothing is known archaeologically about this Maya site, its people, the reasons for the ceramic florescence, or for its demise. Grant explains the conservation process in lay terms, discussing why conservation is necessary, how it is done, what materials are used, and what the results are. The clearly accessible narrative, with full-color photographs illustrating all steps of the process to complement the text, includes such topics as the importance of the pots to Maya studies, their early excavation history, why they needed conservation, what the conservation process entails, how conservators do what they do and why, and special documentation techniques including multispectral imaging and residue analysis.

While the book focuses on conservation rather than the individual vessels, an accompanying CD-ROM, with 280 full-color images, illustrates each of the vessels before, during, and after treatment. Content of the book's CD-ROM may be found online at this location: