Active Project

Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quiriguá

Los Amates, Izabal Department, Guatemala
Did You Know?
Located near the Motagua River in Guatemala, Quiriguá is an archaeological site dating to the Classic Maya period.
A Closer Look

Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quiriguá


Located near the Motagua River in Guatemala, Quiriguá is an archaeological site dating to the Classic Maya period. The monumental complex of pyramids, terraces, and stairways are echoes of a time when the city prospered from trade in jade and obsidian under the rule of K'ak' Tiliw Chan Yopaat, between 724 and 785. Quiriguá is best known for its superb sculptures, including sandstone stelae in the archaeological park, carved with striking anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, including the tallest Maya stele ever discovered. Quiriguá was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981.

Quiriguá faces many conservation challenges, as it is located in a high-risk seismic zone, and it is exposed to storms and hurricanes that cause flooding and landslides regularly in the region. Illegal timber cutting and deforestation from agricultural activities have greatly increased the risk of flooding, as more than 70% of the forest cover in the surrounding valley has been lost in recent years. Damage from a tropical storm in May 2010 forced the temporary closure of the park.

How We Helped

A management plan was developed to address contingency plans and mitigation for forest fires, storms, and floods in Guatemala’s northern region. In Quiriguá, implementation of the plan is constrained by limited resources and encroachment of surrounding private industry. The Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quiriguá was included in the 2012 World Monuments Watch to draw attention to the need for effective planning and protection for the site. Beginning in 2012, WMF secured funding from the Prince Claus Fund to sponsor a study to develop a risk assessment study at the archaeological park. The project, led by the local Ministry of Culture and Sports, developed a systematic process for risk assessment, from its methodological adaptation to implementation, using the archaeological park of Quiriguá as a pilot site. The work resulted in two publications, produced by the ministry, that outline the analysis and plan, as well as the methodology for risk management. The project concluded in February 2014 with a workshop to train site managers in Guatemala on the risk assessment methodology developed as part of this initiative, and the implementation of some emergency risk management measures in Quirigua.

Why It Matters

The risk assessment and management plan being developed at Quiriguá will be important for the site as well as setting standards for other sites in the country. The project aims to establish a replicable methodology and model that can be utilized to assess archaeological heritage throughout Guatemala facing similar challenges to improve disaster preparedness and mitigate potential threats.

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