National Geographic : 2003 Dec
Precision was crucial: Removing the wrong stone could cause walls to collapse, harming Saturno or the painting. As the room cleared, black outlines and pigments of red and yellow appeared-the creatures and faces of a lost world. "The first figure we uncovered was the woman with tamales, in gorgeous Technicolor," says Saturno. "I immediately fell in love." The mystery woman wasn't alone. She and others join the corn god on the back of a mighty serpent emerging from DATE: MARCH 2003 PLACE: SAN BARTOLO, GUATEMALA GOAL: EXCAVATE, PRESERVE MURAL ESSENTIAL GEAR: CONSERVATION AND EXCAVATION TOOLS, GENERA TORS FOR COMPUTERS AND LIGHTS, ANTIVENOM DANGERS: VENOMOUS SNAKES, DEHYDRATION, COLLAPSING WALLS a sacred mountain. "The Maya were probably trying to portray the origin of maize and people," says project iconographer Karl Taube of the University of Enthroned on the west wall, a king awaits his crown (below), a pivotal moment when a man becomes royal-or perhaps divine.The scene bolsters evidence of the Importance of kingship among the early Maya. "It could portray the firstaccession of a god, says project Iconographer Karl Taube. Until all the dirt is chipped away, "we can't say If the king is real or mythological."