This winter, Getty Conservation Institute staff continued their conservation assessment of the hieroglyphic stairway at the Maya site of Copán, with two field campaigns to the site in December 2001 and February 2002. The conservation of the stairway is part of the Institute's Maya Initiative and is a collaboration with the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia (IHAH).

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In order to develop an appropriate conservation strategy for the stairway, the project team had proposed last spring to undertake a limited range of treatment trials for the stairway (see Conservation, vol. 16, no. 2). In December, the team traveled to Copán to carry out the first of these trials.

The trials are designed to evaluate methods and materials to support and protect those areas of the carved stone where localized flaking and fissuring of the surface are taking place. They will also help develop potential interventions to address the poor condition of the jointing mortars on the stairway. Further trials and analysis will be undertaken at the Institute's laboratories to evaluate the behavior of the material used in past treatments and to test for other potential treatment materials in preparation for the next two campaigns.

In February, GCI team members traveled to Copán to adjust the site monitoring equipment installed at the site in spring 2001. Team members also continued training of IHAH personnel in the control and maintenance of monitoring equipment.

Between campaigns, the team continues to conduct important archival and bibliographic research. The information gathered will contribute to the team's evaluation of the range of damage to the stairway.