This spring, the GCI's Maya Initiative began its activities at Joya de Cerén, a pre-Hispanic Maya farming community destroyed by volcanic eruption about 1,400 years ago. In March and June, the GCI—in partnership with El Salvador's national cultural authority, Concultura (Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y el Arte)—undertook two campaigns to increase documentation of the site in order to develop a site management plan further. The plan will cover the conservation of the site, including immediate treatment, maintenance, and monitoring; it will also address the issues of visitor facilities and how the site will be presented. The planning and research methodology being used at the site is designed to serve as a model for other Maya sites in the region.

GCI work at Joya de Cerén included preparation for conservation assessment of the earthen structures at the site, including identification of deterioration phenomena, their location, and their extent. An evaluation of the site was also undertaken in advance of environmental monitoring. In addition, the project team corrected existing drawings and maps of the site and will be recording some of that new information in Autocad format.

Conservation image

In September, planning will take place for a large meeting of all the parties who have an interest in the site. The meeting's participants —including cultural authorities, members of the local community, and tourism officials—will work to identify and agree upon the values that are part of Joya de Cerén.

Working with the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología, the GCI Maya Initiative has also begun work at Copán, a city in western Honduras that reached its peak in the early ninth century during the Maya Classic period. The project there is focusing on the conservation of the hieroglyphic staircase at the site. In addition to studying stone samples taken from the staircase early this century (now in the collection of the Peabody Museum), the project team during this spring and summer collected samples from the staircase for analysis that can better characterize the materials and their current state of deterioration. Team members also examined the site to determine its environmental monitoring needs and studied different methods of documenting this important staircase, whose many glyphs form the longest Maya text in existence.