The Maya archaeological site of El Zotz in Guatemala is one of 67 international cultural heritage sites at risk, according to a list released today by the World Monuments Fund (WMF). The El Zotz Archaeological Project is directed by Stephen Houston, the Dupee Family Professor of Social Science and professor of anthropology and archaeology at Brown. El Zotz features pyramids, palaces, plazas, and a ball court and is known for one of the very few carved wooden lintels, with hieroglyphic text, to have survived from pre-Colombian Mesoamerica. A preserve for several endangered species, the surrounding areas are under acute threat from agriculture, poaching, forest fires, and illegal extraction of nontimber forest products. Additionally, deforestation and looting pose constant challenges. Houston says being named to the WMF list will call attention to the intrinsic importance of the El Zotz site and the risks it faces in the future. “Our approach to preservation has to be comprehensive,” he said. “It’s not a matter of only digging, but looking long-term at the heritage, maintenance, and preservation.”

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