Sunday, July 15 , 2018, 12:10 pm | Fair 75º


Anabel Ford: Guatemala’s Maya Monument Backdrop for Tikal Map Project Reunion

In July 2012 I chanced to see the name Robert Carr on the Guatemala Archaeological Symposium program. Could it be the same Carr from the Carr & Hazard 1962 Tikal Report No. 11, the famous Tikal Map? (Scroll down for the map.)


I knew Jim Hazard of the mapping duo; he lived in Guatemala and was married to Olga Chocano de Hazard, an attorney who represented me back in 1978, but that’s another story.

I was thrilled to meet Bob Carr and delighted to have time with him to ask about his experiences at Tikal. It seems that only recently he had picked up the threads of his Central American adventures from more than 50 years ago. He had started a new chapter of his life, leaving Washington, D.C., and his government engineering job well behind him. He related how some five years ago his wife passed away, causing him to retreat into himself and away from life. Concerned, his children asked why he was not up and about, traveling, taking in the sweetness and adventure of life around him. Essentially they asked him if not now, when? It was this that inspired him to reignite his past interests, and he has not stopped since.

Several years ago, Carr went to Tikal and looked up Tono Ortiz, and visited him several times as he toured the new Petén and the destination of Tikal, which have dramatically changed over the decades. The total population when I began working there in the 1970s was only 50,000 and now the census has it at nearly 1 million! Later, Carr learned about the Guatemala Archaeological Symposium, and attended this past July. I, too, attended the symposium, and this is where we met. What a treat!

So I hatched an idea, I would invite Carr and Hazard to Tikal in February and arrange a trip that showed them the challenges presented in the heritage management at Tikal, take them for a saunter on La Brecha Anabela (the survey I worked in 1978 and why I was interested in Carr and Hazard’s Tikal work), visit several forest gardens of the Maya, and see El Pilar. Hazard and his wife had not been to Tikal for some years, and Carr had not spent time with Hazard since Tikal in 1959! Carr was up for anything — ever inspired by his children’s burning question of “if not now, when?” I set the date for lunch at the Jaguar Inn on Feb. 15. It was there where we all converged, and so started a wonderful week with a remarkable collection of individuals.

Olga and Jim Hazard on the trail in Tikal. (Anabel Ford photo)
Olga and Jim Hazard on the trail in Tikal. (Anabel Ford photo)

Our three days in and out of Tikal were spent taking in the monuments and the back trails of the center, always regaled with the memories of working at Tikal back in the day. Carr had terrific stories about working with his trusty assistant in the field, and of all that he has studied from trips to the University of Pennsylvania. Hazard joked that he had not studied enough for the tour!

We walked out onto the Brecha Anabela and I shared about my experiences mapping in the forest. We got to the first structures I found, house mounds in the local vernacular, and there with Hazard’s iPhone we sent a pictures via email to my husband, Mike, back in Santa Barbara! When I was working in 1978, daily contact was with short-wave radio between Tikal and Guatemala, and mail or telegram were my primary sources of communication. This miracle of modern technology was thanks to Tigo, a local purveyor of cell phones that provided cell towers for communication for the so-called “Maya end of the world” celebration in December 2012. This instant communication from Brecha Anabela is among the many new memories created in familiar places during the Tikal Map Project reunion.

Tikal has new associations for me, after more than 40 years of visits, many years multiple times, and after living there for my dissertation field work in 1978. I now have a spark of memories that stretch further back to the founding of the park when Bob Car and Jim Hazard created the first maps of Tikal from 1957-1960!

Anabel Ford Ph.D. is the director of UC Santa Barbara’s MesoAmerican Research Center and president of Exploring Solutions Past. Ford, UCSB’s resident expert on Maya archaeology, discovered the ancient Maya city-center El Pilar, which bridges Belize and Guatemala. By decoding the ancient landscape around El Pilar, she is creating a sustainable model in conservation and agriculture that can regenerate the threatened Maya forest. With investment and support, her model can assist environmental efforts worldwide. Click here for more information on El Pilar. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

  Map of the Ruins of Tikal (Tikal Report 11) by ekchuem

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