Archaeology

Book Reviews the Road to Ruins by Ian Graham



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Ian Graham is a British Mayanist, a scholar who specializes in the research and study of Central American pre-Columbian Maya civilization. Becoming a Harvard professor after spending decades out in the field he has devoted most of his adult life to helping make the ancient Hieroglyphics comprehensible by documenting and exploring Maya ruins and helping to establish the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions.

In his book, The Road to Ruins, Ian writes a lively autobiography of his unique life as a traveller, photographer and Maya explorer. He takes the reader on a journey through his fascinating life, starting with his childhood and education, Ian tells the reader how he was born into an aristocratic family in 1923 and is a descendant of Oliver Cromwell. He also shares entertaining stories and encounters with a host of notable people he has met including Rudyard Kipling.

For more than 35 years Ian has travelled to the jungles of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize drawing and photographing the sites and sculptures of the ancient Maya, recording the fragile written records, the hieroglyphics, before they became destroyed by looters and the harsh weather conditions.

He first became fascinated with the Maya in the late 1950s when on an impulsive trip to Mexico. He spent time travelling through the Maya lowlands photographing ruins with an idea to make a Coffee Table Book of the ruins but enthralled with the country and entranced by the ancient Maya civilization, he quickly becoming a devoted Mayanist and archaeologist who advocated for the protection and preservation of Maya antiquities.

He spent as much time as he could roaming around Mesoamerica in the 1960's documenting the monuments of Maya sites, mapping, drawing and photographing them under rugged conditions and became a respected authority. In 1964 he was invited to act as a surveyor for a new project in Seibal, Guatemala and later, in 1968, Ian was chosen to carry out a successful pilot project for a systematic publication of the whole body of Maya inscriptions resulting in the folio volumes; Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions.

As Ian takes the reader through his career as “the last explorer” you will really feel as if you are out in the jungle with him as he describes camp life, earthquakes, floods, rattlesnakes, dysentery and the dangers of taking a wrong turn in the jungle.

For anyone who wants to be an archaeologist this book is a must read, but it's not just for Mayanists and archaeologists, anyone with a keen sense of adventure and a lust for travel and ancient history will enjoy this well-told tale of travel, history and adventure.

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