International Workshops on Architectural Covers in Archaeological Contexts

Completed Project
Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico


Archaeological sites around the world are specially threatened by exposure to the elements. Wind erosion, ultraviolet exposure, and rain contribute to the gradual but persistent loss of archaeological and artistic remains, and in many cases the only option for long-term protection is the installation of well designed and monitored protective covers. In the past, many covers have been designed and built without following proper terms of reference previously established by a multi-disciplinary team, which have resulted in inappropriate interventions that not only did not provide the necessary protection, but accelerated damage, by the creation of harsh microclimates around the elements to be preserved.

How We Helped

Although each site and region have different requirements and limitations, it is possible to develop some basic criteria for the design and construction of archaeological covers in dry and wet climates that could be applicable to other similar sites with certain modifications. Based on this premise, WMF, in collaboration with Banamex, the Fundación Pedro y Elena Hernández, A.C., CONACULTA, and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), organized an international workshop (“Taller sobre Lineamientos para la implementación de cubiertas arquitectónicas en contextos arqueológicos”) on protective covers for archaeological sites in Palenque, Chiapas, in October 2009. The workshop gathered Mexican and international field experts in archaeology, conservation, design, tourism, and site management, to discuss the issues concerning the design and construction of protective shelters for archaeological sites in Mexico and elsewhere in the world. After several roundtable discussions and site visits to former Watch sites and WMF field projects—Yaxchilan, Teotihuacan, and Chalcatzingo—the teams of experts came up with basic terms of reference to be followed in the design and construction of protective covers in Mexico. The discussions and proposals presented at the six-day workshop have been compiled in the publication Guidelines for the Installation of Architectural Protective Covers for Archaeological Sites. The National University of Trujillo, Peru, and the National Institute for Anthropology and History in Mexico hosted the second International Workshop on Architectural Covers in Archaeological Contexts in December 2011. International field experts convened during the four-day workshop, which included site visits to Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, Chan Chan, and Huaca Cao. The event was sponsored in part by WMF, through the Robert W. Wilson Challenge. The third workshop was hosted in Guatemala City on October 2013. Four international architects were invited to design proposals for protective covers at four archaeological sites: Kaminaljuyu, Quirigua and Yaxha in Guatemala, and Yaxchilán in Mexico. The conceptual designs will be based on visits to two of the sites, as well as presentations and discussions with the site archaeologists. The discussions and proposals will be published in 2014.

Why It Matters

The use of protective covers in archaeological contexts and what constitutes their “proper” design has been, and continues to be, a highly debated subject among experts around the world. Workshops like these provide the forum for the discussion and development of general guidelines that can be applied in different archaeological contexts.

Last updated: August 2016.

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