National Geographic : 2003 Dec
By Carol Kaufmann NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC WRITER Photographs by Kenneth Garrett W illiam Saturno is living an archaeologist's dream. Bit by bit, he's unveiling the most elaborate depiction of Maya origins ever discovered, a mural that shows the first known portrayal of the corn god's journey from the underworld to Earth-shattering the time line of early Maya art. Two years ago in San Bartolo, Guatemala, Saturno spotted a slice of the mural while seeking shade in a looters' trench dug into an unexcavated pyramid. The four-foot-long fragment (indi cated at center, below) showed the intricate ornaments and muscled thighs of the corn god, a mythic Maya figure. Suspect ing that more of the painting lay behind rubble that filled the dark room, Saturno vowed to return. In 2002 he mapped the site, and in March of this year he began excavation. Working long hours until his arms ached, he gingerly chipped away at the rocks that obscured the mural.