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The Archaeologist and the Artist

Robert J. Burkitt; Photo by the Penn Museum

In 1895, Harvard University graduate Robert J. Burkitt (1869-1945) accompanied his classmate George Byron Gordon to Honduras as part of Harvard's Peabody Museum's fourth expedition to the Maya site of Copan. Burkitt remained in Central America long enough to earn the title "the man who came to tea and stayed for thirty years." In 1912, George B. Gordon, by then Director of the Penn Museum, persuaded Burkitt to roam the Guatemalan highlands exploring Maya sites for the Museum, an association that would last until 1937.

Mary Louise Baker; Photo by the Penn Museum

Mary Louise Baker (1872-1962), the resident artist at the Penn Museum from 1908 to 1935, painted water colors of Maya vessels and rollout paintings to allow the entire scene to be viewed and appreciated on a flat surface. She was widely recognized as the finest and most accurate archaeological artist of her day. In 1931, when she was almost 60, the Museum sent her to Mexico and Guatemala to paint Maya pottery in museums and private collections where she and Burkitt became friends.