U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Kiva Murals at Lowry Pueblo
Many of the great house rooms were probably plastered inside, and kiva walls were painted with bold geometric designs.
Initial excavations led by Paul Martin for the Field Museum in the 1930s revealed one kiva (Kiva B) with an exceptionally well-preserved mural, and the kiva was backfilled to preserve it. Before backfilling, a portion of the mural in Kiva B was shellacked.
SAVING THE MURALS: In response to public demand to make Lowry's features more visible, the pueblo and its kivas were re-excavated in 1965. The previously-shellacked mural section showed more deterioration than the portion which had been left untouched. Once exposed to the elements, the mural deteriorated rapidly. Several attempts at stabilization failed to slow the process of disintegration.
Almost none of the mural survives today, except for a salvaged fragment currently on display at the Anasazi Heritage Center. This reflects a tension inherent in public archaeology between preservation and interpretation: Noone can both display and preserve fragile cultural resources in perpetuity. Present technologies cannot preserve Puebloan murals in situ-- except by reburying them. Other interventions are of limited effectiveness, or they risk accelerating the deterioration. Such cases are all the more reason to visit with respect.