April 22, 2011
My dear friend Merle passed away today

Merle Greene Robertson (August 30, 1913 – April 22, 2011) was an American artist, art historian, archaeologist, lecturer and Mayanist researcher, renowned for her extensive work towards the investigation and preservation of the art, iconography and writing of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Central America.

Merle at her apartment at the Park Lane on Nob Hill

Initially trained as an artist, Robertson pioneered the technique of taking rubbings from Maya monumental sculptures and inscriptions, making several thousand of these over a career spanning four decades. In many cases these rubbings have preserved features of the artworks which have since deteriorated or even disappeared, through the actions of the environment or looters.

Merle at Cala Foods on Hyde Street in San Francisco

Merle at her apartment at the Park Lane on Nob Hill

In 2004 Robertson received the Orden del Pop award from Guatemala's Museo Popol Vuh, in recognition of her decades of work preserving the country's Maya cultural heritage through her detailed documentation of Maya monuments and hieroglyphic writing.

Robertson was born in 1913 in the small town of Miles City, Montana, but, moved to Great Falls, Montana as a small child. Her schooling was completed in Seattle, Washington.

Merle in Central America

Robertson was also instrumental in initiating the series of Mayanist conferences known as the Palenque Round Tables, which have produced some of the most significant breakthroughs in Maya research and the epigraphic decipherment of the ancient Maya script.


Merle with her Ball Court Rubbing in the De Young Museum

Merle's cat Vicky

The last photo of Merle ever taken.

This day when I went to visit her, she was handwriting Thank You cards to everyone who had wished her a speedy recovery from her recent illness. She passed away a couple of days later.


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