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“Lamb’s objective was essentially to do Kon-Tiki in the Chiapan Rainforest. And he needed a lost city as a selling point.”

In 1950, American adventurers Dana and Ginger Lamb traveled to the jungles of northern Guatemala looking for Maya ruins and a story they could turn into a movie. There they encountered a rich cache of decorated structures made in the first millennium CE, including a particularly elaborate limestone lintel (a horizontal support above a doorway) carved by an artisan named Mayuy. Such objects had and continue to hold great historical, aesthetic, and spiritual significance for Maya people and descendants. Unfortunately, like many Maya ruins, the site has since been looted, and retracing the original locations of the displaced works is challenging.

In this episode, Stephen Houston, editor of A Maya Universe in Stone, explores the production and complex afterlives of these Maya objects. Houston contextualizes carved lintels within ancient Maya history and visual and spiritual practices, and discusses the fraught nature of their re-emergence in the twentieth century.

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JIM CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.

STEPHEN HOUSTON: Lamb’s objective was essentially to do Kon-Tiki in the Chiapan Rainforest. And h...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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