Yaxchilan was chosen for the field test because of the sheer abundance and variety of inscribed monuments at this spectacular Classic Maya site. Photo: Alexandre Tokovinine.

In April 2007, the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, field-tested a digitizing system that may change the way Maya monuments, murals, and inscriptions are recorded in the future. The test, at the site of Yaxchilan, Mexico, was supported in part by a grant from the Butler Conservation Fund through the World Monuments Fund, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

A multinational team led by Barbara Fash, director of the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions at Harvard University, tested a 3-D scanner, triTOS, made by the German company Breuckmann, which creates a full-color, digital record of two dimensional or 3-D objects. The technology opens new ways of publishing and studying inscriptions and imagery, but most importantly, new ways of recording and even reproducing endangered monuments.

During five days of intensive fieldwork (April 1923), a variety of different monuments were scanned using triTOS. In addition, the team documented the stelae and other monuments at Yaxchilan using traditional photography and field drawings in preparation for a forthcoming Corpus volume that continues the publication of the Yaxchilan monuments.

The Harvard University News Office sent two reporters to accompany the expedition, resulting in remarkable coverage in its weekly newspaper, the Harvard Gazette. The series of articles and multimedia presentations offer a detailed account of the trip and equipment trials and may be viewed at


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