Conservation Efforts in the Mirador Basin

The Mirador Basin contains some of the earliest and largest cities in the Maya world. The concentration of ancient sites in this region is unusual. And the size of the monumental architecture is unprecedented in the Western Hemisphere. Because of the antiquity of the sites, the Mirador Basin Project and its partners, the FARES foundation, the Global Heritage Fund, Cementos Progreso, Conservation International, Counterpart International, and the Association of Friends of the Cultural and Natural Patrimony of Guatemala are working closely with the government of Guatemala in protecting the basin, recognizing community concessions and developing archaeological sites so as to establish a new model of eco-tourism and rainforest conservation. Because of the antiquity of the sites, new technology and conservation strategies had to be employed so that the sites would be visible to the visitors. This new technology required the participation of numerous institutions and consultants, and for the first time, Preclassic monumental art is being exposed to the public.

Structure 34, a late Preclassic building, constructed between 200 BC and the time of Christ, with the oldest exposed standing wall in the Maya lowlands prior to project intervention.

The southern wall of Structure 34, El Mirador, after project consolidation.

The northern main platform of Structure 34, a Preclassic, Triadic structure showing the poly-carbonate roof construction designed by Dr. Richard Hansen, Engineer John Cybulski of Boeing, and Co-Director Edgar Suyuc. The superstructure now protects delicate art and architecture while allowing environmental compatibility.

The superstructure over Structure 34 and other monuments in the Mirador Basin was designed to breathe. Poly-carbonite sheets allowed light but not ultraviolet light. The separation of sheets allowed constant temperature and humidity, which has resulted in remarkable success for architectural preservation of these early structures.

The upper facade of Structure 34 in the Tigre Complex at El Mirador during excavation. The Preclassic art and architecture date prior to the time of Christ. Conservation strategies with FARES, Conservation International, Global Heritage Fund, the Getty Conservation Institute, and Cementos Progreso are providing new models for development and study.

Architectural consolidation at the suburb of El Mirador known as La Muerta has saved threatened buildings from imminent collapse. Conservators Enrique Monterroso Sr., Enrique Monterroso Jr., Dr. Eric Hansen of the Getty Conservation Institute and Carolina Castellanos have provided expert opportunities for local villagers to learn maintenance and preservation strategies.

Learn more about how you can help protect these ancient cities.