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The Merle Greene Robertson Collection

The Merle Greene Robertson Collection at Tulane University's Latin American Library is one of the preeminent collections of visual materials for the study of the Maya world. The collection provides accurate visual records of sculpture, stucco and mural art, and hieroglyphic writing by the ancient Maya inhabitants of regions of Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico from the Classic period (A.D. 200-900). It includes full-scale rubbings of carved monuments and stucco walls, photographs of clay figurines, and photographs, slides, and negatives of public architecture at more than a hundred archaeological sites throughout the Maya area, including the important sites of Chichén Itzá and Palenque in Mexico. The collection also includes hundreds of Robertson's own line drawings of Maya sculptural and artistic output and dozens of bound volumes that combine line drawings, original sketches, paintings, photographs, and written text.

What is a Rubbing and Why are they Important?

The nearly 2,000 individual ink rubbings of carved monuments are the most important part of the Robertson Collection. Robertson began making these rubbings in the remote, inhospitable jungle environs of southern Mesoamerica in 1963. The materials at Tulane form the only such collection in existence for Maya monuments. Ink rubbing is a method for recording information from three-dimensional carved surfaces of stone, bone, wood, and shell. Robertson used handmade Japanese papers (usually rice paper), which she affixed to the carved surface. Once in place, the paper was daubed with either an oil pigment or sumi ink using varying techniques, in order to bring forth every cut of the original carving. This technique, particularly as developed by Robertson, results in a faithful rendering of the original sculpture. 

 

By reproducing the actual dimensions, texture and shape of carved objects, the rubbings provide a singular way of documenting and studying the inscriptions and detailed artwork not otherwise available with other commonly-used media such as photography. Once recorded through the method of ink rubbing, these features can be faithfully rendered through digital images of the rubbings themselves. Rubbings can record high and low relief with no distortion and can accurately capture features in low relief which would normally appear in shadow in photographs of the original monument. On very large monuments with curved surfaces, rubbings may be the only true illustration of the relationship of the parts to the whole. The documentary value of the rubbings are further magnified by the fact that, in some cases, the original objects have been lost or stolen, or have been fragmented and reside in various repositories and institutions around the world. Numerous objects are in private collections and are not open to public view. Moreover, the carved or painted information contained on monuments and walls that Robertson recorded decades ago has now been lost over time due to exposure to the tropical climate and other environmental factors.

For more on Merle Greene Robertson and her work:

[Maya rubbings. By] Merle Greene Robertson
[ S.l.] : [s.n.] 1973.
v. (loose-leaf) ; 29 cm.
Latin American Library Rare
F1435.3.A7 R6

The photographs are useful for identifying particular images.

Merle Greene Robertson's rubbings of Maya sculpture
Robertson, Merle Greene.
San Francisco, Calif. : Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, 1993
F 1435.3 .S34 R63 1993

Never in Fear
Robertson, Merle Greene.
[San Francisco, Calif.] : The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, c2006
CC 115 .R634 R63 2006

Rubbings of Maya Sculpture Iconographic Database
(Precolumbian Art Research Institute)

The Rubbings of Maya Sculpture database uses keywords developed by Merle Greene Robertson. An "Additional Notes" field has been added to provide bibliographical citations and commentary.

The sculpture of Palenque
Robertson, Merle Greene.
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1983-
F 1435.1 .P2 R66 1983

Maya Sites Recorded in the Merle Greene Robertson Collection

Geographic Location
Geographic Location
Site
Site Code
Site
Site Code
Abaj Takalik
ABT
Machquila MAQ
Aguas Calientes
AGC
Mayapan MPN
Aguateca
AGT
Mitla MIT
Altar de Sacrificios
ALS
Mixco Viejo MXV
Altun Ha
AHA
Monte Alban MAB
Bilbao
BIL
Mopila MOP
Bonampak
BPK
Motul de San José MTL
Bonampak area
BPKA
Naranjo NAR
Cacaxtla
CAC
Nim Li Punit NLP
Calakmul
CLK
Orizaba ORZ
Campana San Andres
CSA
Oxkintok OXK
Campeche
CAM
Oxtonton OXT
Campeche Fort
CAMF
Palenque PAL
Cancuén
CNC
Palenque Area PALA
 Caracol
CRC 
Palo Gordo PGD
Chacmultun
CHM
Palo Verde PVD
Chicana
CHIC
Pabetaro PEB
Chichen Itza
CHN
Piedras Negras PNG
Chilib
CLB
Polol POL
Chinikiha
CHK
Popola POP
Chinkultic
CHKU
Puerto Rico PRC
Chuitinamit
CHT
Quiahuiztlan QHZ
Coba
COB
Quirigua QRG
Comalcalco
COM
Río Bec RBC
Copan
CPN
San Bonita SBO
Cuicuilco
CUC
Santa Elena SEL
Cuilipan
CUL
Santa Lucia Cotzumalhualpa SLC
Dos Pilas
DPL
Seibal SBL
Dzibilchaltun
DZB
Tajín TJN
Dzilam
DZL
Tamarindito TAM
El Anonal
ANO
Tancah TAC
El Baúl
BUL
Tayasal TAY
El Cayo
CAY
Tazumal TAZ
El Palmar
PLM
Teayo TEY
El Salvador
SAL
Tenayuca TNY
El Zapote
ZAP
Teotihuacan TEO
Etzna
ETZ
Tikal TIK
Flores
FLO
Tikal/Tres Islas TIL
Guaytan
GUA
Tonina TON
Halakal
HAL
Tortuguero TOR
Hecelchacan
HEC
Tula TULA
Hormiguero
HOR
Tulum TUL
Ichmul
ICH
Tunkuyi TUN
Itsimte-Sacluk
ITS
Uaxactun UAX
Itzan
ITN
Uolantun UOL
Itzimte
ITZ
Usumacinta Area UMCA
Itzimte-Bolonchen
ITZB
Uxmal UXM
Ixkun
IXK
Xcalumkin XLM
Ixlu
IXL
Xculoc XCL
Ixtutz
IXZ
Xel Ha XEH
Izapa
IZP
Xocha XCA
Jimbal
JMB
Xpuhil XPH
Jonuta
JNT
X'tel Huh XHU
Kabah
KAB
Xunantunich BVJ
Kaminaljuyu
KJU
Yagul YAG
Kancabdzonot
KBD
Yaxchilan YAX
Kancabdzonot
KBD
Yaxchilan Vicinity "Pasadita" YAXA
La Amelia
AML
Yaxha YXH
La Democrita
DEM
Yocha YOH
La Florida
FLA
Yula YUL
La Mar
MAR
Zaachila ZAA
La Nueva Jutiapa
NJP
Zoh Laguna ZHL
La Venta
VEN
Zotz ZOZ
Labna
LAB
   
Lacanha
LAC
   
Lake Peten
LPN
   
Lamanai
LAM
   
Las Ilusiones
ILU
   

 

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