Sites Less Studied

By all accounts, George Andrews was a highly energetic man, especially when he had a passion to pursue. This drive led him and Gerrie to some sites that were quite literally off the beaten path. As a result, the Andrews documented sites that have been less studied than the major ones like Tikal. For example, one of the Río Bec towers actually was "lost" for about sixty years! The Andrews' work is especially valuable considering the constant deterioration these architectural gems undergo due to natural causes as well as looting.

Río Bec B
Building structure at Río Bec B.

Revealing Río Bec

Understanding the Río Bec groups can be a bit tricky for non-Mayanists. First of all, "Río Bec" is used to describe both a regional style as well as a set of archaeological sites. The 21 sites called "Río Bec" are geographically spread out in the Mexican state of Campeche, and efforts to distinguish one from another in scholarship have been less than successful.

Fortunately, George's attention to architectural detail made him perfect for the job of using past scholars' descriptions to cross-reference the different names scholars have used to describe the same site. The reports he compiled will begin to be available online starting in summer 2011.

Río Bec B, checkerboard
Checkerboard design at Río Bec B.

Again, George's architect's eye allowed him to make distinctions others might have missed in determining relationships and chronologies of Maya buildings. To the concept that the Río Bec towers were inspired by Tikal's pyramid-temples, George had this reply:

"Our own detailed comparison of the basic architectural and decorative features of the Tikal pyramid-temples with the Río Bec towers shows that this premise is not tenable, since the stairways, pyramids, temples, and roofcombs of the Río Bec examples are completely different from those at Tikal."

Using the minute details of the architecture to compile extensive charts, George made a substantial case for this and other theories he developed through his work. However, explaining the significance of the checkerboard and cross patterns seen throughout the Río Bec region was beyond his capacity—George suggests several ways interpreting them but could not argue definitively for any of these ideas.

Río Bec B
Río Bec VI
Río Bec B
Río Bec B, Gerrie and worker
Río Bec A
Río Bec I, Structure XVII
Río Bec C
Río Bec H
Río Bec D, Gerrie

Happening on Hormiguero

Hormiguero, a Río Bec-style site located in Campeche, Mexico, has been minimally excavated due to difficult access. The quality of roads was a constant frustration for the Andrews, who traveled via Volkswagen vans and Beetles, Jeeps, small planes, and on foot, often with inexact directions from locals and their Mayanist friends.

Building structure at Hormiguero site.

Upon finding a site, the potential for disappointment always loomed: many buildings were in an advanced state of collapse, with interiors fallen in or filled with debris, too dangerous to perform research. Hormiguero V and VI were such structures.

Yet Hormiguero II exhibits one of the most theatrical monster masks seen in Maya architecture, making it well worth the trip. One of George Andrews' monographs, Pyramids and Palaces, Monsters and Masks explored the significance of such sculptural work within the functionality of the architecture.

Hormiguero, detail
Hormiguero, detail
Hormiguero, "Structure II G.A., ? and Gerrie"
Hormiguero, "II"
Hormiguero, "Structure V"
Hormiguero, "Structure V"

Engaging with El Zotz

In 1978, George and Gerrie visited El Zotz, located about 23 kilometers from Tikal in Guatemala. Despite the site's close proximity to Tikal and other sites, its presence had escaped official notice, and George's report in Mexicon in 1986 was one of the first on the site.

El Zotz, "ruined structure and forest"
Ruined structure and forest at archaeological site El Zotz.

Looters, however, were aware of El Zotz before the government began to protect it. The site therefore is speckled with looters' holes and other evidence of their work. Given the difficult circumstances, the Andrews did their best to document El Zotz with photographs and a short report.

Fast forward to 2010: Edwin Román of the Universities of Texas and San Carlos of Guatemala, came to the GFA archive to prepare for a dig he was undertaking with a bi-national team co-directed by Stephen Houston of Brown University. The team went on to discover a royal tomb just below the El Diablo temple at El Zotz, about 10 feet beyond where looters had stopped digging! George and Gerrie would no doubt be thrilled to know they had contributed to such an important discovery.

El Zotz, Gerrie and worker by structure
El Zotz, "detail showing long slabs used in vaults"
El Zotz, structure detail
El Zotz, Gerrie in portal
El Zotz, "corner of building at bottom of looter's trench"
El Zotz, "Temple IV at Tikal as seen from the top of "The Devil" at El Zotz
Edwin Román on-site at El Zotz, 2010

Learn More