Merle Greene Robertson at Palenque

One of the most important Maya sites is Palenque. With its unique characteristics, it has kept some of the best quality bas reliefs in the whole Maya world, and with the work that Merle Greene Robertson accomplished, the almost four thousand stelas and bas reliefs are now documented. She worked for over four decades to accomplish the rubbings of all the bas reliefs and is an essential piece of why historians and archeologists can look back into the past with accurate details.

Robertson’s influence in the Maya world was very impactful. She led a series of Palenque Round Table conferences which began in December 1973, and convened for eight meetings, with the last one held in June 1993. These meetings were held to further the exploration of Palenque and the study of Maya literature. With these meetings, the Maya culture was laid out over a series of dates that depicted the secession of rulers and what happened during their period of rule. Throughout her sketches, she encountered many different depictions of life in Palenque that was discussed in detail when they attended these meetings to collaborate together to work out a common solution.

Robertson was very particular on how she did her sketches. She emphasized two things always, the original monument must not be blemished in any way and no pigment at all was be allowed to come in contact with the stone. The rubbing must be authentic; no embellishments, no 20th century additions or any process that would help the detail. Many of her sketches were the only real image of bas reliefs left due to graffiti and erosion. Over 2,000 pieces of these are located at Tulane University's Latin American Library in New Orleans and are the only way that historians can continue to peel back the layers of the very complex Maya culture and writing system.

In 1982, Robertson founded the Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute which conducts important research in Mesoamerican art, iconography, and epigraphy. They have also sponsored excavations in Palenque at the group cross project. In 1993, the Mexican government acknowledged Robertson's contributions to the study of Palenque with the honor of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, which is the highest medal a foreigner can achieve in Mexico. Similarly, in 2004, Robertson received the Orden del Pop Award from Guatemala's Museo Popol Vuh for her contributions to the study of cultural heritage through her documentation of Maya monuments and hieroglyphic writing.

On April 22, 2011 Merle Greene Robertson died at the age of 97 her contributions to the study of the Maya will never be forgotten. Her legacy of documentation of primary materials in the form of drawings, paintings, photographs, and rubbings is so important, and they will continue to be studied for as long as they exist.