Merle Greene Robertson

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Merle Greene Robertson (foreground), in 1986 at Palenque, during a Mesa Redonda (Round Table) conference.

Merle Greene Robertson (August 30, 1913 – April 22, 2011[1]) was an American artist, art historian, archaeologist, lecturer and Mayanist researcher, renowned for her extensive work towards the investigation and preservation of the art, iconography and writing of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Central America.[2]

Early life[edit]

Robertson was born in 1913 in the small town of Miles City, Montana, but, moved to Great Falls, Montana as a small child. Her schooling was completed in Seattle, Washington.[3]

Contributions to study of the Maya[edit]

Initially trained as an artist, Robertson pioneered the technique of taking rubbings from Maya monumental sculptures and inscriptions, making several thousand of these over a career spanning four decades.[4] In many cases these rubbings have preserved features of the artworks which have since deteriorated or even disappeared, through the actions of the environment or looters. Robertson was also instrumental in initiating the series of Mayanist conferences known as the Palenque Round Tables, which have produced some of the most significant breakthroughs in Maya research and the epigraphic decipherment of the ancient Maya script.

In 2004 Robertson received the Orden del Pop award from Guatemala's Museo Popol Vuh, in recognition of her decades of work preserving the country's Maya cultural heritage through her detailed documentation of Maya monuments and hieroglyphic writing.[5]


  1. ^ Zender and Skidmore (2011)
  2. ^ Doyle (2000), Zender and Skidmore (2011)
  3. ^ Barnhart (2003, p.1). In interview, Robertson describes Mile City [sic] of the time as "..a little cattle crossing in the road."
  4. ^ Some 2,000 of these rubbings are archived at the Tulane University's Latin American Library in New Orleans; see Gidwitz (2002), Olivera (1998). In a 2003 interview Robertson estimated that she has made "probably about four thousand" (Barnhart 2003, p.4).
  5. ^ Museo Popol Vuh (n.d.)


Barnhart, Ed (December 2003). "Periodic Interview Series: Merle Greene Robertson" (PDF, transcript of interview with Merle Greene Robertson, recorded December 2003). Resources. Palenque, Mexico: Maya Exploration Center. Retrieved 2007-03-28. 
Coe, Michael D. (1992). Breaking the Maya Code. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05061-9. OCLC 26605966. 
Doyle, John (4 September 2000). "Digging Deep: Archaeologist Merle Greene Robertson has spent four decades uncovering treasures of Mayan civilization" (online republication at SFGate). San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco: Hearst Corporation): A-5. ISSN 1932-8672. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
Gidwitz, Tom (May–June 2002). "Doyenne of Mayanists: Merle Greene Robertson has spent a lifetime chronicling Mesoamerican art" (online abstract). Archaeology (New York: Archaeological Institute of America) 55 (3): 42–49. ISSN 0003-8113. OCLC 95337645. Retrieved 2007-03-28. 
Olivera, Ruth (1998). "Merle Greene Robertson Collection, 1966 - 1993". Latin American Library Manuscripts Collection. New Orleans: Tulane University. Archived from the original on 2006-12-08. Retrieved 2007-03-28. 
Museo Popol Vuh (n.d.). "Dra. Merle Greene Robertson: Orden del Pop 2004". Orden del Pop. Guatemala City: Museo Popol Vuh, Universidad Francisco Marroquín. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
Zender, Marc; Joel Skidmore (2011). "In Memoriam: Merle Greene Robertson". Mesoweb. 

External links[edit]