In humble home, Guatemala farmer finds ancient Maya murals under plaster

Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:04pm EDT
 
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By Mike McDonald

CHAJUL, Guatemala (Reuters) - In a ramshackle home in Guatemala's rural highlands, farmer and odd job man Lucas Asicona made for an unlikely guardian of ancient Mayan treasures - until he decided to redo his kitchen.

When he pulled back the plaster in his humble colonial-era home of stone, adobe and haphazard wooden boards, he discovered 300-year-old murals, a priceless piece of Guatemalan history.

Scenes of tall Europeans beating drums and playing flutes stare out over the one-room dwelling where his family including five children cooked, slept and played.

So he carefully drew back the furniture and moved his wood burning kitchen stove outside to protect the treasured artwork, an informal curator of Guatemala's rich past.

"We try to keep the kids away from it and keep people from touching it," said Asicona, 38, who discovered the murals by chance in 2005 during renovation work at his home, which has been in his family for generations.

"The house is very humid and some of the colors have been fading. The black has started to turn gray and some of the other colors have lost their shine, but we do what we can without any funding," he added.

Asicona is among four householders in Chajul, an Ixil Maya community some 220 miles from Guatemala City, struggling to preserve murals revealed after peeling back plaster on the walls of ancient homes. Experts believe similar murals could lie hidden in a further eight homes in the town.

Painted by the current occupants' Mayan ancestors, the friezes cover several walls of the homes, whose colonial history is glimpsed in details including heavy hardwood doors and carved stone pillars propping up modern tin roofs.   Continued...

 
Two women stand beside murals in the house of Lucas Asicona Ramirez, in Chajul, in the Quiche region, October 9, 2012. Ramirez is among four householders in Chajul, an Ixil Maya community some 220 miles (350km) from Guatemala City, struggling to preserve murals revealed after peeling back plaster on the walls of ancient homes. Experts believe similar murals could lie hidden in a further eight homes in the town. Painted by the current occupants' Mayan ancestors, the friezes cover several walls of the homes, whose colonial history is glimpsed in details including heavy hardwood doors and carved stone pillars propping up modern tin roofs. Picture taken October 9, 2012. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez