The Ruins and Restoration of Zaculeu, Guatemala


About the Institute and Exhibit Program

Founded in 1924, the Middle American Research Institute (M.A.R.I.) at Tulane University strives to promote greater understanding of the vibrant and diverse cultures of Mesoamerica, the area encompassing much of Mexico and Central America.

The Institute stewards an extensive collection of textiles, artifacts, and ethnographic materials and an archive of letters, field notes, maps, and photographs gathered during field projects and given by generous donors. M.A.R.I. endeavors to make these collections visible and accessible to researchers, students, and the general public through exhibitions, workshops, symposia, and scholarly publications.

M.A.R.I. interns have the opportunity to work with and research the Institute’s archival and artifact collections. The culmination of their hard work is an online exhibit available through Tulane’s library website. These exhibits cover a wide range of topics showcasing the people and material culture of Mesoamerica.


The Ruins and Restoration of Zaculeu, Guatemala

First founded in the Early Classic period (roughly AD 250-600), the Maya city of Zaculeu is located in the Department of Huehuetenango in the western highlands of Guatemala. The reconstructed buildings and ruins of Zaculeu provide insight into the architecture and burial practices of the Mam Maya people.  Zaculeu means “white earth” in the Mam language; the site is named for the white plaster that covered the buildings.

In 1947, a team led by John M. Dimick and sponsored by the United Fruit Company excavated and restored structures at Zaculeu. Photographs and field notebooks from the excavations, as well as photographs from later trips to the site, are housed in the M.A.R.I. Archives, and this exhibit will use these imagess to explore the site before and after its renovation.


Creation Date: Fall 2020

Acknowledgements: The exhibit was designed by Archives Intern Evan Oldham and supervised by Erin Patterson, M.A.R.I. Archive Manager.


Further Readings

Dimick, John M., United Fruit Company, and Middle America Information Bureau.
1947    Zaculeu; Restoration by United Fruit Company. New York?

Woodbury, Richard B., and Aubrey S. Trik
1953    The Ruins of Zaculeu, Guatemala. United Fruit Co., New York.

Exhibit Sections