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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Friday, July 25, 2014

Small tiles tell tale of Maya madness

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Posted: Friday, July 4, 2014 5:00 am

Hidden in plain sight in a back stairwell of La Fonda is a fascinating artifact of the 1920s: tiles modeled after ancient Maya hieroglyphs that were made in Los Angeles by the Ernest Batchelder Tile Company. 

The Maya were an essential component of the research program Edgar L. Hewett envisioned as the founding director of the Museum of New Mexico and the School of American Archaeology, the predecessor of the School for Advanced Research. Hewett’s team — including Sylvanus G. Morley, A.V. Kidder, and Jesse Nusbaum — conducted archaeological investigations in the Southwest and south of the border. Documents in the Fray Angelico Chávez Library at the New Mexico History Museum show that Hewett considered excavating at the Maya ruins at both Palenque and Chichén Itzá, but he settled on Quiriguá, Guatemala, because the United Fruit Co. — which owned the banana plantation where the ruins lay — offered financial and material support. The Quiriguá project supplied exhibits — reproductions of four stelae and two monoliths found at the ruins — for the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego in 1915 and 1916. Casts of the sculptures of Quiriguá are still on display in the San Diego Museum of Man.

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