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Ian Graham

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Ian Graham

MacArthur Fellowship

Ian Graham wwwazquotescompublicpicturesauthorsb4a3b4a

Trinity College, Dublin

Ian James Alastair Graham OBE (12 November 1923 – 1 August 2017) was a British Mayanist whose explorations of Maya ruins in the jungles of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize helped establish the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions published by the Peabody Museum of Harvard University. Among his related works is a biography of an early predecessor, the 19th-century British Maya explorer Alfred Maudslay.


Ian graham white bull

Early life and studies

Ian Graham was born 1923 in Campsea Ashe, a village in the East Anglia county of Suffolk, England. His father was Lord Alastair Graham, the youngest son of Douglas Graham, 5th Duke of Montrose. His family also includes relatives in publishing, specifically associated with the Morning Post.


Graham went to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1942 as an undergraduate in physics, but his studies were put on hold the following year when he left to enlist in the Royal Navy in which he served for the remainder of World War II, largely working in radar research and development. After the war his studies were resumed at Trinity College, Dublin from where he completed his bachelor's degree in 1951.

Early career

Graham’s first research position was a three-year project funded by the Nuffield Foundation and working in the small Scientific Department of The National Gallery in London. The objective of this was to study the penetration and swelling of paint films and varnishes by solvents. Following the successful completion of the project, in 1954 he felt he needed work with a broader scope. During the three years he had enjoyed a vivid social life and the many connections this led to allowed him to take up photography semi-professionally and embark on extensive travels. These activities gave rise eventually to two books illustrated with his photographs. A visit to Mexico in 1958 initiated his long involvement with Maya archaeology.

Field work

Graham is responsible for recording and cataloguing the largest single collection of Maya sculptures, carvings and monumental artworks. His photography and drawings at such sites as Coba, Naranjo, Piedras Negras, Seibal, Tonina, Uaxactun, and Yaxchilan has not only preserved highly detailed records of the sites, but have provided Graham and others with records that have been utilized to prevent the sale of looted and illegally and illicitly obtained art and artifacts. Graham has, for many years, been involved as a consultant and witness in criminal cases involving looted art, as well as cases of artifact repatriation.

Professional achievements and honors

In 1968 Graham founded the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphics Program at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum, joining the museum fully in 1970. In 1981, he became a MacArthur Fellow for his work preserving and cataloguing Maya relics. He received the Society for American Archaeology’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. He was appointed OBE in the 1999 Birthday Honours.

Graham published a memoir of his professional life and career, The Road to Ruins, in 2010.


Ian Graham Wikipedia

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