Art: Treasures From the Jungle

Two superb shows retrieve the lost masterworks of the Maya

"America, say historians, was peopled by savages, but savages never reared these structures, savages never carved these stones." So said John Lloyd Stephens in 1839 at the sight of the lost Maya city of Copan rising eerily out of the Honduran jungle. The pioneering American archaeologist was amazed by the art objects that lay around Copan's crumbling pyramids and palaces. "Architecture, sculpture and painting, all the arts which embellish life, had flourished in this overgrown forest; beauty, ambition and glory had lived and passed away," Stephens wrote. "All was mystery, dark impenetrable mystery."

Since then, archaeologists and anthropologists have penetrated at...

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