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News Release

For immediate use

Jan. 9, 2007

Local angles: Barnardsville; Camden, S.C.

Photo: To download images, see end of story.

Stuarts bring 13,000-item collection
on the Maya, archaeology, to UNC

CHAPEL HILL - The Maya people of Central America, whose civilization thrived from about 1800 B.C. to A.D. 1200, charted the heavens, mastered mathematics, built elaborate temple-pyramids and developed the only true writing system native to the Americas.

All this while Europe yet labored in the Dark Ages.

Today, some seven million Maya survive. But because their formal civilization faded so very long ago, it took years of relatively modern hard work to discover all that we know about them now.

The stories of artists and archaeologists who made these discoveries will be told Jan. 18-March 31 in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Seventy of their drawings, photos, writings and more will be displayed in the free, public exhibit "Unearthing the Maya: Highlights of the Stuart Collection." The items are among 13,000 such materials donated recently to the UNC Library by George and Melinda Stuart of Barnardsville, near Asheville.

"Unearthing the Maya" will be open in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
In a free public opening program for the exhibit, at 5:45 p.m. Jan. 18 in Wilson Library, Stuart will discuss the collection and his career. He'll be joined by his son, David Stuart, an expert on the Mayas' written language and a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Stuarts will give separate programs at UNC on Jan. 19, both free and open to the public. George Stuart will speak about the exhibit at 11 a.m. in Wilson Library. For more information about the library programs, call (919) 962-1143.

At 3 p.m. on Jan. 19 in Hyde Hall, just off East Franklin Street near the post office, David Stuart will present "The Murals of San Bartolo: A New View of Ancient Maya Religion." For more information on this program, presented by the UNC Research Labs of Archaeology, call (919) 962-6574.

George Stuart, who earned a doctorate in archaeology at UNC in 1975, spent a lifetime discovering information and collecting materials about the Maya while also working for almost 40 years for the National Geographic Society.

His seven books include "Lost Kingdoms of the Maya" and "The Mysterious Maya," both written with his late, first wife, Gene, and published by the National Geographic Society.

The Stuart collection will put the UNC Library on par with the Library of Congress, the universities of Pennsylvania and Texas, and Harvard and Tulane universities as one of the nation's leading repositories of materials on the Maya and their region, said Vin Steponaitis, a UNC anthropology professor. The collection also includes a wealth of information about the southeastern United States, he said.

The exhibit will show visitors an evolution of understanding about the Maya, said Sarah Fass of the library's Rare Book Collection, exhibit curator. There are accurate representations and some that later proved to be inaccurate.

"The show will be very visual," Fass said. "We have emphasized that aspect of the materials. Many of the books are illustrated." Images will include photos of the ruins of the Maya city Chichén Itzá in Mexico, a popular tourist destination.

Stuart, a Camden, S.C., native, received a Distinguished Alumnus Award at UNC in October. After he retired, he and Melinda Stuart moved to a mountain farm in Barnardsville, where they established their Boundary End Archeological Research Center. Scholars visited often to use Stuart's collection; other collections were added to his as widows and friends of other archaeologists donated their materials.

Eventually, the Stuarts began looking beyond their own lifetimes, wondering where the collection should reside. They wanted it to remain in North Carolina. The UNC Library was only too happy to welcome the treasure trove.

"This is a collection of international stature," said Charles McNamara, curator of the library's Rare Book Collection. "We want visitors to see it, and we want to demonstrate the university's commitment to this type of scholarship."

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Note: For more information about the Maya and Stuart, visit
and; for information on a UNC/Duke summer Maya study program, visit

To download images: Two photographs by Henry Sweet that appear in British archeologist Alfred P. Maudslay's (1850-1931) "Archaeology," to be part of the exhibit "Unearthing the Maya: Highlights of the Stuart Collection" at UNC's Wilson Library Jan. 18 through March 31:

El Castillo, a temple at Chichén Itzá, taken during Maudslay's 1889 expedition:
Maudslay in his camp at the ruins of Chichén Itzá:

Two images of engravings produced from drawings by Frederick Catherwood, published in his 1844 book "Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan":

"Idol at Copan,"
"General View of Palenque," a famous Maya site in Ciapas, Mexico, the subject of a book by George and David Stuart to be published later this year,

UNC Library contacts: Charles McNamara, (919) 962-1143,; Judith Panitch, (919) 962-1301,

News Services contact: L.J. Toler, (919) 962-8589