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Merle G. Robertson, Ph.D. FN ‘90


Artist, archaeologist and art historian Merle Greene Robertson has devoted her life to preserving the culture of the Ancient Maya. Trained as an artist, Robertson was pursuing a degree at the University of Guanajuato in 1962 when she decided to take a weekend trip to the ruin of Tikal. What began as a brief journey, soon became an obsession: fighting through jungles and working in dank, dark tombs to document thousands of Maya masterpieces before their destruction by looters and time.

Although Robertson has worked in a variety of media, she is best known for her creation of over two thousand rubbings of Maya relief sculpture, a technique which provides unparalleled detail, faithfully reproducing the actual dimensions, texture and shape of the carved objects.

Robertson was instrumental in initiating the series of Mayanist conferences known as the Palenque Round Tables, and thus helped to bring about one of the 20th century’s great accomplishments: the decipherment of the Maya script. A cascade of discoveries followed, unveiling five centuries of Palenque’s history and a civilization immersed in war, human sacrifice, and mystical rituals. In recognition of the seminal role that she has played in Maya scholarship, Robertson was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the Mexican government, their highest honor for a non-citizen.

Dr. Robertson has worked in twenty-three countries and had major exhibitions of her paintings in six. She currently serves as research associate at the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University.

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