Monument of the Ancient Mayan Race, Quiriguá, Guatemala


This photograph from the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress shows two men examining a stone monument from the ancient Mayan city of Quiriguá in Guatemala. Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) was an American writer of books on travel and world geography, whose works helped to popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the United States in the early years of the 20th century. Consisting of photographs taken and gathered by Carpenter and his daughter Frances (1890–1972) to illustrate his writings, the collection includes an estimated 16,800 photographs and 7,000 glass and film negatives. In Land of the Caribbean (1925), part of his Carpenter's World Travels series, Carpenter wrote: “The ruins of the Mayan city at Quiriguá are scattered over an area of three thousand acres, yet for more than a thousand years they were hidden by the jungle and undiscovered by man. They were first brought to light in 1839, when John L. Stephens, an explorer making his way overland through this part of the country, happened upon them. This was before the days of photography, but travelling with Stephens was a man named Catherwood, who was skilled in drawing and sketching, and it was the illustrations made from his steel engravings, together with the writings of Stephens, which gave the world its first knowledge of this forgotten city.” The Mayan civilization, which reached its highest point of development in the period between 250 and 900 AD, extended throughout much of present-day Central America and southern Mexico. Quiriguá was a Mayan river port that flourished between about 400 and 900 AD.

Last updated: September 29, 2014