5421 - Ancient Maya Graffiti at the site of Kakab, Yucatán, Mexico

Ancient Maya graffiti occur on stuccoed walls of structures. A preliminary check list, reports 51 sites where graffiti have been reported. Many sites present only one or a few examples, whereas at Tikal, in the Rio Bec Zone, at Nakum and La Blanca, a significant number were recorded. Although the Puuc Zone has numerous stone buildings, examples of graffiti are mainly known at Uxmal, Kabah, and Labna, sites featuring just a few examples.

An exception is the Puuc site of Kakab, where one Terminal Classic structure displays a large number of graffiti, illustrating human figures, temple-pyramids, and geometrical designs. This rarely visited site has first been published in 1978.

I visited Kakab in 1992 and 1994 and took analogue photographs from the majority of the graffiti. In 2011 I revisited Kakab securing their documentation through digital photographs. A comparison of these pictures proves, that the condition of the graffiti has not suffered essentially from natural forces or the hands of man.

Further investigations provided evidence, that even images taken without flash and only in the limited daylight can, successfully, record graffiti. Photographs can later be enhanced digitally and copies in the form of drawings can be created rather simply and quickly. This preliminary recording system cannot be compared with proper recording methods such as in situ tracings on transparent plastic sheets, or advanced digital photography, supported by artificial lightings. The simple method of recording with photographs, the subsequent digital enhancement, and a final drawing of the designs, can be a preliminary step in the direction of a more accurate recording, which requires more equipment, funds, and time.

Hitherto unrecorded Maya graffiti are subject to constant damage and destruction. A preliminary record could assist in an effort of preservation, at least in lasting visual records, of this neglected and endangered corpus of murals.

Keywords: Maya, Architecture, Iconography, Graffiti, Murals

Author: Mayer, Karl Herbert (Independent Researcher, IAM, Austria / Österreich)


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