Maya title glyph, Ixik-ajaw, High status woman THE LINDA SCHELE DRAWING COLLECTION

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  About the Linda Schele Drawings
by Matthew H. Robb

When art history professor Linda Schele died in 1998, she left behind an enormous legacy of scholarly work on the civilizations of ancient Mesoamerica, particularly the Maya. As one of the key figures in the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs, Linda wrote and published prolifically, organized the Texas Maya Meetings—now in their twenty-second year, and in her last years led hieroglyphic workshops in México and Guatemala so that the Maya of today can learn the script of their ancient ancestors. Behind all of these efforts was a passion to share the knowledge that she had gained through her own work and through the projects in which she collaborated with others. It was in this spirit that Linda wanted her drawings of objects, monuments, buildings, and hieroglyphic texts to be made available as widely as possible. She passed away, knowing that the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. would honor her hopes for wide dissemination of her work.

While most students of PreColumbian culture are familiar with her numerous written works, fewer are as familiar with the contribution of her image archive. That she devoted so much time and energy to this corpus of more than one thousand drawings should come as no surprise when we remember that Linda began her career in the late 1960’s as a painter. But after she and her husband David made a fateful visit to Palenque in 1970, she knew that her fate lay in "learning who had built it, why, when, and how." Linda brought an artist’s sensibilities and sensitivities to this quest. When combined with her intimate knowledge of iconography and hieroglyphs, her skills as an artist enabled her to create simultaneously beautiful and accurate records of the monuments and objects from the Mesoamerican world she loved.

Many of these drawings have been published in books and articles;  however, those reproductions rarely convey the quality of line and extent of detail in the originals. Most of Linda’s drawings were created with ink on Mylar; some are pencil sketches. We have chosen to include many of Linda’s corrections to earlier drawings;  eventually, we will also provide some discussion of her observations and modifications. There are numerous pages in the archive that contain drawings of various, often unrelated, subjects;  where possible, we have attempted to precisely identify each separate item. Also included are many of Linda’s structural analyses of texts from Palenque, illustrating her working method.

For website usage the original drawings were photographed with 35-mm., high-contrast slide film, resulting in a white-on-black negative. These slides were digitally scanned and placed onto Kodak Photo CDs. Each file was then extracted, inverted, rotated, cropped, and image quality corrected as needed, and finally compressed to an appropriate size for use on the World Wide Web. The photo CDs will reside at the FAMSI offices.

In the hopes of fulfilling Linda’s wishes, we have made this digital archive and catalogue of her drawings. It attempts to summarize the basic content and iconography of each drawing as well as publication references, where known. Corrections and additions to the catalogue are most welcome; please do contact FAMSI’s Director. Linda wanted her drawings to be shared with everyone for scholarly study. For publication use of her drawings, permission must be requested from FAMSI. The Foundation will then provide a copyright license. In honor of Linda, FAMSI may request a donation for the Schele Chair at the University of Texas. Processing fees are charged if applicable. Requests and correspondence should be addressed to: or FAMSI at 268 South Suncoast Boulevard, Crystal River, Florida, 34429.  (Fax: 352-795-1970).

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