Harvard researchers head south to preserve ancient inscriptions

Historians in the News

Researchers from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology are preparing to head into the Central American rain forest to begin an ambitious, multiyear project to scan and digitize fading Maya inscriptions and carvings.

The expedition, by the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Program (CMHI), will focus on Yaxchilan, an ancient Maya city on the Usumacinta River, which forms the border between Mexico and Guatemala. The CMHI’s mission since its formation in 1968 is to record and disseminate information pertaining to all ancient Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions and their associated iconography.

During the height of its power, Yaxchilan dominated the Usumacinta region, its influence peaking during the eighth century. Located in modern-day Mexico and reachable only by boat, today it is known for its excellent carvings and narrative inscriptions.

The nine-member team will employ advanced technology in an effort to preserve the elaborate Maya hieroglyphics, images, and stone carvings that are free-standing or decorate various buildings at Yaxchilan.

Researchers will use an optical scanner to create a digital, three-dimensional image of each carving. The image will be stored in a computer file, much like a word document or a photograph. It can be examined, shared digitally, and even “printed out,” layer by layer, on a special, 3-D printer that creates a three-dimensional reproduction of the carving. ...
Read entire article at Harvard University Gazette

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