Studying Ancient America in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Boundary End Archaeology Research Center is a perfect escape for writers, artists and other creative souls wishing to experience the peace and tranquility of Appalachia.

Call for Applications
2021-2022 George Stuart Residential Scholar(s)

The Boundary End Archaeology Research Center (BEARC) is seeking candidates to become the 2021-22 George Stuart Residential Scholar(s) (GSRS) for the academic year. Candidates may apply for either one or two semester-long residencies, but two semester-long residencies are preferred. The Fall residency spans September 1-December 30. The Spring residency spans January 1-May 30.

BEARC is a research center and residential library located in Barnardsville, NC, a 25-min drive from Asheville and a 2-min walk from the Big Ivy Section of the Pisgah National Forest. BEARC is dedicated to the study of the ancient Americas with foci on Mesoamerica, the Andes, and the Southeastern U.S.A. Its sizable library collection (of 10,000+ books, periodicals, and miscellaneous publications) is dedicated to the archaeology, linguistics, art history, history, ethnohistory, and ethnology of those world areas. The ideal candidate for the GSRS program:

  • studies in one of our academic fields and regions of study (see above).
  • is either (1) a graduate student at the writing stage of their thesis/dissertation or (2) a recent Ph.D. seeking to complete writing projects such as postdoctoral research, a monograph, or a series of articles.
  • is seeking a peaceful and quiet setting away from most distractions for finishing up their writing project(s).
  • is autonomous, ready to live in a rural area, and preferably owns a car.
  • is well-organized, willing to contribute to BEARC’s activities (see below), and is committed to expanding upon George Stuart’s science outreach and public education legacy.

This residential scholarship offers free comfortable amenities (including a private bedroom) in the newly renovated George Stuart Residential Library, a uniquely beautiful office and work environment, along with unlimited access to all the resources of the library. No stipend is attached to the position; however, there are potential opportunities for teaching courses at local universities (e.g., UNC-Asheville and Warren Wilson College).

The residential library features two bedrooms and can easily accommodate two GSRS’s who wish to apply jointly, but will otherwise only accept one GSRS at a time for reasons of space and privacy. Couples are welcome to apply. If applying jointly, two distinct applications should be sent, but please note in the application cover letters that they are being submitted jointly. A spouse or dependent can also be housed in the residential library (also mention this in the cover letter). All candidates should have working English proficiency, but we welcome candidates whose primary or research language is different, such as Spanish.

Residential scholars will have a set of BEARC-related responsibilities amounting to 5-10 hours of weekly work. Their responsibilities may include:

  • contributing to the organization and cataloguing of our library resources. This involves working with volunteers one day a week (once the health crisis is over).
  • helping with the limited, daily operations of the center. This involves basic mail, email, social media, website management, and occasional minor physical work.
  • building upon George Stuart’s science outreach legacy by pursuing local public lecture opportunities, helping with the organization of workshops and other public-facing BEARC activities, and maintaining a reasonable open-door policy for other members of the research center and for occasional visitors (M-F, 10am-4pm).
  • being willing to share the working space with an occasional short-term Visiting Scholar.

To apply, candidates should send a C.V. and a 1-2-page cover letter outlining: (1) their proposed project; (2) their fit as a GSRS; (3) how they would use the BEARC resources; and (4) for which semesters they are applying. Combine both items into a single PDF and email it (or any questions) to by March 26, 2021. Review of applications will begin on March 27.

Assembling the World’s Most Difficult Puzzle: The Broken Maya Murals of San Bartolo, Guatemala

Dr. Heather Hurst,presented BEARC’s Virtual Lecture on YouTube February 24, 2020). 

“We are excited to have Heather present this incredible story as part of our Virtual Lecture Series on YouTube,” said Maxime Lamoureux St-Hilaire, BEARC’s president.

Photos: Christopher Massa/Skidmore College


The outstanding origin mythology depicted in the San Bartolo murals was a remarkable discovery from a previously unknown Late Preclassic period Maya site. Ten years of excavation, conservation, and documentation brought the in situ north and west walls of the buried chamber named Sub-1A into focus, significantly advancing studies of ancient Maya iconography, religion, and governance. Yet this was only half the story. In contrast to the excellent preservation of the in situ walls, the east and south walls of the temple were intentionally broken and buried by the Maya as part of its ritual termination in the 1st century. It took several additional years to recover over 3000 mural fragments during archaeological excavations of the Sub-1A chamber, and then slowly piece sections back together based on iconographic and stylistic characteristics. The “second chapter” of the San Bartolo murals is becoming visible in numerous reassembled scenes. This presentation will share our methodologies for reassembly and recent results in solving this challenging puzzle.

Imagine 7,000 fragments of stucco over 2000 years old, painted bright colors. Pieced together, they form a stunning panorama of scenes depicting the Maya maize god, blood-letting sacrifices, turtle caves and a principal bird deity.

“Seeing this today brings back the thrill of discovery,” said Hurst. “…I’m reminded of the moment we found the beautiful calligraphic lines that were fluid and precise. The awe of seeing the intense colors of black, red, yellow and white…the precise yet stylized images of men, women and deities.” (from Skidmore College’s website by Julia Marco.)

Part of Hurst’s work was conducted at BEARC’s Library, where she collaborated with David Stuart, Karl Taube and Astrid Runggaldier during a workshop. For several days Heather guided them with Photoshop images of the individual mural fragments to put the puzzle together.

Hurst’s current project on the murals of San Bartolo has support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, National Geographic Society, and the Mesoamerica Center of the University of Texas at Austin.

Donations to Boundary End Archaeology Research Center

Help us support our George Stuart Residential Scholars and
make BEARC a top research center for the Ancient Americas!