Piedras Negras

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Photographic Archive of the Piedras Negras Project, 1997-2000
by Stephen Houston, Héctor Escobedo, Zachary Hruby, and Jessica Skousen

Our project excavated at Piedras Negras, Guatemala, over a span of four seasons, from 1997 to 2000, usually beginning in late March and finishing in late May or early June. During that time Zachary Hruby, our project photographer, took hundreds of images in a variety of formats, many in 35 mm. Ektachrome (Canon camera), others in medium format black-and-white (Pentax 6x7). Lighting conditions at Piedras Negras were often poor, with the problem of having to deal with dappled light coming through the jungle canopy. As a result, Hruby had to take most of the images before work began (7:00 am) or was compelled to wait until the late afternoon when dappling became less intense. We first experimented with high ladders, but these proved unwieldy -- hardwood ladders made by our workers could only be moved by half a dozen men. Hruby made do by climbing trees for his overhead shots. He was tireless and resourceful, often having to adjust to extremely difficult condition. All project members owe him a large debt.

After completing fieldwork in 2000, Houston and Escobedo decided to digitize the entire set of images and manage them within a database. Skousen, an MA student in Art History at BYU, was hired to undertake that work over a two-year period. The database presented here results entirely from her hard labor, in which she labeled and improved images with surpassing diligence and care -- many images were at first difficult to identify, yet Skousen was able to deduce the exact context of most images. Where possible, the database also registers contextual information that relates to our system of numbering operations: "PN" for "Piedras Negras," followed by the number of "operation" (a sector of excavation), "sub-operation" (an area within that sector), "units" (a far smaller areal designation, often no more than 2x2 m in size), and "lot," an entity used in collecting artifacts, always from contexts less than or exactly equivalent to an archaeological stratum.

Our objective as archaeologists has been to collect and share evidence. We are merely the stewards of research results at Piedras Negras, not its owners. For that reason, our database is to be used by anyone and everyone, provided their intent is scholarly. (Non-academic use should be cleared by FAMSI, the sponsor of this web-site, in consultation with Houston and Escobedo.) Crediting should go to: Piedras Negras Archaeological Project, Brigham Young University and the Universidad del Valle, our respective institutions. Users are warmly invited to send comments and corrections to the

None of this work would have been possible without generous donations from FAMSI, Lewis Ranieri, President, Sandra Noble, Director, and a permit authorized by Juan Antonio Valdes and other Directores del Patrimonio Cultural in the Republic of Guatemala. Other support came from: the National Geographic Society; the Ahau Foundation, Dr. Peter Harrison, President; Dr. Kenneth Woolley and family; Mr. Spencer Kirk and family; the Ashton Family Foundation; the Fulbright Commission; the National Science Foundation; the Heinz Foundation; the Rust Trust; the Shallit Trust; the Jesse Knight University Professorship held by Houston; the Department of Anthropology, Brigham Young University; Dr. Gary Hooper, Vice-President at Brigham Young; and a host of other funds, including those given to graduate students and to Prof. David Webster, Pennsylvania State University.

Search the Piedras Negras Archive

For more information on the research at Piedras Negras, follow the links below:

In the Land of the Turtle Lords: Archaeological Investigations at Piedras Negras, Guatemala (2000)

Among the River Kings: Archaeological Research at Piedras Negras, Guatemala (1999)

Between Mountains and Sea: Investigations at Piedras Negras, Guatemala (1998)

The Piedras Negras Project, 1997 Season (1997)

Cerámica Clásico Temprano 2005 by Mary Jane Acuña Smith. (spanish version only)

La Secuencía Cerámíca del Período Preclásíco en Píedras Negras, Petén. by Griselda Pérez Robles. (spanish version only)

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