Mayan archaeology is the fasting growing scholarly division compared with Greek or Roman archaeology. Interest in Mayan civilization is exploding worldwide, fueled by dramatic discoveries by archaeologists in the ruined cities of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador. TV documentaries, museum exhibits, and conferences provide additional stimulus to the interested public.
As with any rapidly expanding industries, all kinds of popular nonsense gets promulgated. New Age gurus as well as archaeological theorists propound cosmographic theories that amaze the public but would probably have been considered as heresy by the Classic Maya priests themselves.
The web sites sponsored by F.L.A.A.R. are non-profit, are based on scholarly principles in the European tradition (comparison, citation, content, and context). The background of these web sites is based on anthropology (in the American tradition), art history, architectural history, archaeology, and ethnohistory.
As a leader in professional (yet non-profit) photography of ancient civilizations, F.L.A.A.R. has entered the digital era well ahead of the pack. Aided by a grant of $100,000, our staff was jump-started into the forefront of digital imaging technology. Concurrent with this grant the F.L.A.A.R. director, Dr Nicholas Hellmuth, was awarded a position as Visiting Professor by Japan's Ministry of Education. This funding was to develop a system of digitizing of color slides to encourage the study of Maya culture through digital means.
Following this experience F.L.A.A.R. was in a position to be accepted as a test center for digital imaging equipment by a host of companies. Over the last two years F.L.A.A.R. has received close to $95,000 worth of sophisticated digital imaging equipment.
But all this hardware and software is not for our pleasure, nor for us to use for our own research and publishing needs. Much more than that, the equipment and training is to enable us to study how this equipment can best aid other institutions, other departments, museums, and scholars, who perhaps did not have the opportunity of substantial grants and international training.
F.L.A.A.R. has introduced digital imaging technology to Copan for Honduras's Institute of Anthropology and History. The F.L.A.A.R. team of Nicholas Hellmuth and Andrea David spent six months at the Museo Popol Vuh (Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala) testing what high-end large-format digital photography equipment was most cost-effective and practical for recording Maya art and artifacts.
Now, in 1999, we are finishing our reports for the original grant of $100,000 and for the program of digital multi-media at Japan's National Museum of Ethnology, in Osaka.
All F.L.A.A.R. research in Japan arranged courtesy of the internest of Dr Yoshiho Yasugi, Minpaku. Professor Yasugi is one of Japan's leading Mayanists, an epigrapher who has also worked with Maya textiles.