Fellow: Awarded 2017
Field of Study: Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Competition: US & Canada
Heather Hurst is an archaeologist specializing in ancient Mesoamerica. She has investigated and illustrated Maya murals, monumental sculptures, and architecture at sites including Bonampak, Copán, Holmul, Oxtotitlán, Palenque, Piedras Negras, San Bartolo and Xultún. By documenting these ancient artworks, Hurst’s creative work has contributed significantly to scholarly analysis and to cultural heritage preservation. Hurst’s interdisciplinary work facilitates dialogue between archaeologists, materials scientists, conservators, and art historians, and at the same time disseminates images that engage both academics and the public in the study of Maya culture. Her work has been published in National Geographic, Science, Antiquity, and the New York Times, and exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Hurst was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2004.
The intimate knowledge and precision required to articulate a calligraphic line in a manner that was true to original Maya murals inspired Hurst to explore the artists behind the paintings. Her goals as a scholar are driven by the human experience captured in the lines themselves. By characterizing how Maya artworks were created, Hurst strives to make visible the diverse roles of ancient Maya painters, scribes and sculptors. As a Guggenheim Fellow, Hurst will be illustrating a new corpus of Maya murals from San Bartolo, Guatemala. These recently reassembled broken fragments expand the corpus of known wall paintings and provide new insights into the origin of Maya religious beliefs.
Heather Hurst is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Skidmore College.