Sanja Savkic, Ph.D.


Sanja Savkic has been trained as an art historian and she is familiar with approaches from anthropology of art and visual studies. This cross-disciplinary approach has been fructiferous for her ongoing research that has been concerned mainly with the ancient Maya art and architecture. Her work has received considerable interest of the general public, as shown by the invitations she has received to give talks at various cultural institutions. As for the academic recognition of her work, both her master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation were awarded honorable mentions; for her achievements during her doctorate in art history at the National Autonomous University in Mexico (UNAM), she was honored as the most distinguished graduate in 2012. Her dissertation concerned visual configurations of the Late Preclassic Maya art at San Bartolo, Guatemala. She concluded a postdoctoral stay at the UNAM’s Institute of Anthropological Research, developing the project about the practice of construing edifices and larger architectural complexes by superposing new building programs on top of the previous ones at two Maya major sites. She has participated in projects concerning art, architecture, museum culture, languages and writing systems in the Americas; done fieldwork in Mexico and Guatemala, and has experience in archaeology excavations.

3rd, 6th, 7th architectural phases, Pyramid of the Paintings, San Bartolo, Guatemala (Image by Massimo Stefani, 2015)
North Wall, c. 100 BCE, 6th architectural phase, Pyramid of the Paintings, San Bartolo, Guatemala (redrawn by Debra Atenea Diaz Zuñiga, 2015, after Heather Hurst)

Research Project

Engaging Preclassic Maya Visual Configurations at San Bartolo, Guatemala

This research aim is to examine how the Late Preclassic Maya from the ancient city of San Bartolo, Guatemala, interacted with their past by means of materialized forms, exploring particularly how they created narratives through architecture, sculpture and mural painting, as means of making contact with ancestors and shaping the past, formulating the connections between past and present. Other important questions to answer are about the way objects are displayed in space, their visibility and perception, images they portray, and the relation between these images with the objects’ physical forms and materiality; how they may have inspired interaction and movement; how people engaged with them in changed contexts (e.g. new architectural phase with new visual configurations); and how they articulated with the ancient Maya beliefs, mythology, rituals, and power. This work is inspired by my doctoral dissertation “Valores plástico-formales del arte maya del Preclásico tardío a partir de las configuraciones visuales de San Bartolo, Petén, Guatemala (UNAM, 2012), and it is my intention to write a book as a substantial contribution to enrich a comprehension of the ancient Maya art and architecture, especially those created at San Bartolo.