Storied Walls

Huaca Luna Frieze
Detail of painted wall relief, Huaca de la Luna, Peru. Photo courtesy Huaca de la Luna Archaeological Project.

Murals of the Americas

March 13, 2008-April 30, 2014

Throughout time and around the world, people have adorned the walls of their homes, palaces, tombs, temples, and government buildings with painted scenes and designs. From cave paintings; the Neolithic shrines of Çatalhüyük, Turkey; or the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, to the contemporary works of Diego Rivera or graffiti art, artists have transformed blank architectural canvases into engaging, evocative works of art, through the application of color, pattern, and figures. While murals may serve as simple decoration, they are often highly symbolic, making visible a people's religious, political, and cultural beliefs, as well as their histories and values.

Storied Walls: Murals of the Americas explored the spectacular wall paintings from the Maya murals of San Bartolo and Bonampak in Guatemala and Mexico, respectively; and the Moche huacas of northern Peru. The artists and artisans who adorned these walls left stunning visual accounts of some of the most significant and enduring stories of their times—stories that insist upon being read, even now, centuries after their creation.

The original artworks remain for the most part in situ. Storied Walls used the photographs and drawings of archaeologists, models, and fragments of original murals to examine the meanings and social uses of murals within the Maya, and Moche cultures; the history of their discoveries and investigations by affiliates of the Peabody Museum and others; and ongoing efforts to preserve and restore these fragile painted surfaces.

Curated by Jeffrey Quilter, Barbara Fash, William Saturno, Steven LeBlanc, and Mary Miller, with the assistance of Lisa Trever.

See the Peabody Museum Storied Walls brochure (PDF)

See a video about ancient Maya music as depicted in the murals of Bonampak.

See a video about the fierce Moche decapitator god of Peru.