Photographic Insights from Engaged Archaeology: Yucatan and Beyond Journal Article uri icon



  • Photography has been a particularly important though often under-theorized aspect of archaeological research. Although seemingly simple representations, photographs are simultaneously objective and subjective, truthful and creative. This article considers the contradictory nature of photography generally and the specific relationship between photography and archaeology. It then looks at the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and examines how individuals have photographed ancient Maya sites, architecture and artifacts from the mid nineteenth century to the present. Initially used to support diffusionist theories of Maya origins, photography was later understood as a neutral and scientific way to record the Maya past. More recently, it has been used to share power more equitably with local communities and to make archaeology a more inclusive and relevant endeavour. Indeed, several have demonstrated that photography is a useful tool for engaged archaeology. This article argues that the reverse is also true: insights from engaged archaeology are useful tools for archaeological photography generally. By making photographic choices explicit and by including people and other aspects of the contemporary world in their photographs, scholars can emphasize that archaeology is a decisively human and necessarily political endeavour, and that archaeological sites and artifacts are dynamic and efficacious parts of the contemporary world.

publication date

  • June 16, 2022

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • June 21, 2022 11:53 AM

Full Author List

  • Kurnick S

author count

  • 1

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0959-7743

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1474-0540

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 15