Kaminaljuyu, in Guatemala’s highland central valley, is one of the region’s few surviving Mayan complexes of earthen construction. It is a unique example of exposed adobe architecture in the tropical highland—with elaborate buildings, some with funerary chambers, reliefs, and painted surfaces, highlighting the area’s wealth. Its strategic location enabled control of crucial trade routes during the Maya period. Between 1000 B.C. and A.D. 200, Kaminaljuyu, or “place of the ancestors” in the Mayan K'iche' language, enjoyed artistic, architectural, and sociopolitical advances, becoming one of the most important centers in southeastern Mesoamerica. Long abandoned, the site was rediscovered in the early twentieth century. Encroachment from the ever-expanding Guatemala City prompted its placement on the 2010 World Monuments Watch.
Preservation of the site’s Acropolis and the Palangana structures
Following inclusion on the Watch, improvements to Kaminaljuyu archaeological park included the construction of a visitor center and enhanced signage to educate tourists on the importance of the park’s structures. Funding from the government of Japan assisted local authorities with improved stewardship. Tunnels from excavations carried out in the 1960s were backfilled and stabilized. World Monuments Fund helped fund the development of designs for new protective covers for two archaeologically sensitive structures at the site to protect the fragile material from erosion caused by exposure to the elements. WMF focused on preservation of the site’s Acropolis and the Palangana structures, and replacement of sections of inadequate roofing.
The site is of enormous symbolic importance to Guatemala’s people and heritage. Its role as the nucleus in a complex political and economic environment, as well as its ceremonial and civic-administrative functions, was critical to the development of the region over the centuries. The expansion of Guatemala City has increased awareness of the need to protect this early settlement site and legislation was enacted in the 1960s for this purpose. Despite these efforts, spearheaded by the Instituto de Antropologia e Historia de Guatemala, deterioration has continued at the site, which has necessitated the installation of protective shelters to preserve the remains of Kaminaljuyu.