Mayan Rubbings and Batik Serigraphs
by James A. McBride II, Architect

in Guatemala, Central America 1970-1971


Rubbings from Aquateca, Bilbao, Seibal, and Tikal
Rubbings from Aquateca, Bilbao, Seibal, and Tikal
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Mayan batiks and batik serigraphs created from rubbings
Mayan batiks and batik serigraphs created from rubbings
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   At the time James A. McBride II arrived into Guatemala, Central America, on Nov. 19, 1969, he had no preconceived idea of the origin of the Mayans or any knowledge of the possible cultural contact with other civilizations by oceanic travel from east or west. During the course of time of making rubbings and observation of the Stone Stelae and architecture, there appears to be an Asian ancestry either across the Bering Strait or through accidental oceanic travel and discovery of an existing Maya people.


   The Evolution of the total knowledge about the Maya Civilization has not occurred during our generation or by a single person. There have been numerous scholars and archaeologists, artists, and other academic minded individuals who have and will continue to contribute information to the unfolding drama of discovery of the origins of the Maya.

   I was probably one of the first graduates from the University of Texas in 1958 to have the first opportunity to produce Mayan Rubbings in 1970 through 1971. My purpose in producing the rubbings of Mayan stone stelae of low relief carving in Guatemala is to disseminate information through museum exhibits and newspaper articles about the awareness of the Mayan culture within our own hemisphere, to the general public and to anyone desiring the knowledge of the Maya from my experience. I only had 1 1/2 years of part-time efforts to explore Mayan rubbings from 4 principal sites of Aguateca, Bilbeo, Seibal, and Tikal; of which the latter two sites were partially restored by Harvard and The University of Pennsylvania. This Adventure was the fulfillment of a prior mental projection while a student of architecture at The Instituto de Monterrey Y Technologico of Monterrey, Mexico and The University of Texas. I was obsessed with The Hieroglyphics and Symbols carved to preserve the messages of the Maya. I owe my gratitude to Dr. Goodall from The University of Texas Art Department 1970 and Phillipe de Montebello of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts 1970 requesting my permission from the director of The Instituto de Anthropological E Historia de Guatemala, Sr. Luis Lujan-Munos to begin to obtain permission in December, 1970.

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Aquateca 1971 First Rubbing Stela No. 3

   Deep in the jungles of Meso-America lie the remains of ancient pyramids, pyramids on pyramids, many still undiscovered, abandoned by unknown builders at an unknown time for unknown reasons. In their secret places lie precious codices and hieroglyphic writings of celestial mathematics sculptured into geometic form on monuments known as stelae.

   The cosmic knowledge of the ancient Maya was preserved by the carving of their language in stone, positioning and constructing their buildings as astronomical observatories, calculating a calendar within .002 exactness of today's calendar, computing time and developing a mathematic system utilizing the term zero. The aesthetic and intricate design of the Maya acts as a perpetual cosmic clock accurately marking cycles of this planet with the visible bodies of our solar system not only in the present but deep into the future and the past.

   Discovering the ancient Maya for myself while exploring archeological sites in the jungles of Guatemala, I was struck by the beauty and power of their architecture and carving of stone monuments. I was intrigued and mystified by their hidden messages. What did these remote but powerfully vibrant works of art mean to convey?

   My interest in the Mayan civilization began as a student of architecture at the University of Texas and Institutode Technologico of Monterrey. Ten years after graduating, I received the opportunity to work with U.S.A.I.D. in Guatemala for two years. After receiving permission from the Government of Guatemala through letters from the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston and the University of Texas, I obtained a collection of twenty rubbings from Mayan stelae erected approximately every twenty (19.71) years between 300 A.D. and 900 A.D. Two of the rubbings are now on permanent display in the pre-Columbia room of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

   My desire to produce an art form of accurate archeological information from the rubbings on cloth was to preserve the mysterious messages carved in stone on the Mayan stelae. While living and working in Indonesia on the design and construction of a new town project on the island of Borneo, I discovered the art form of batik from Java which is a handdrawn wax-resit st and dye process for each color of the design.

   The enigma of the Maya,held in place by the veil of time and by obscure messages carved in stone by priest sculptors has inspired these interpretations into the Mayan batik serigraphs by transposing designs from stone to cloth.

   Historically, the development of man has been woven by threads of influence through the exchange of cultural ideas. Contact by exploration of trade routes, conquests, religious pilgrimages, or crusades has affected knowledge, philosophies, literature, music, life styles, and art. The life of a nation or of an individual is affected by these contacts and influences. The Mayan Batik Serigraph Art of Cultural Contact is developed from Mayan stone rubbings to drawings, to batiks, to serigraphs, and to batik serigraphs.


   James A. McBride II has selected batik interpretations of his Mayan Rubbings and drawings from Central America and Mexico to produce a hand drawn silk screen process combined with the batik process. His awareness of cultural similarities and diversities is a result of travel and work as an architect in various parts of the world.Throughout this time this awareness has strengthened his recognition of Asian ancestry of the ancient Maya either across the Bering Strait or by oceanic travel arriving in two directions from both East and West into Central America.

   The product of this Mayan Batik Serigraph is a present day result of ancient ancestry. "Very often art remains the only tangible evidence of a civilization, lost, destroyed or continuing."--Joseph Cain, James A. McBride II February 1, 1978