This study is not an original work. Although I have been fortunate enough to visit certain Mayan ruins: Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Palenque, Quiriguá, I have not been able to contribute personally to the rich studies which a number of investigators have pursued with rare good fortune during the past century and increasingly so over the last fifty years. In the works of these scholars I have found the material indispensable to the writing of the pages which follow; all credit must therefore go to them. My role has only been to try to summarize their thought without deforming it, to resist the temptation to give too much detail, to retain only the essential facts and to sacrifice secondary matters, however attractive these sometimes were. I should like to be certain that I have succeeded and that my readers will feel with me all the beauty, nobility and human character of one of the greatest civilizations of the world.
A world buried beneath ruins, under the shroud of the tropical forest, has been awakened and brought back to life, thanks to such scholars as Brasseur de Bourbourg, John Lloyd Stephens, Teobert Maler, A. P. Maudslay, Désiré Charnay, Herbert J. Spinden, Thomas Athol Joyce, Thomas Gann, J. Eric Thompson, J. T. Goodman, Eduard Seler, Sylvanus G. Morley, Alberto Ruz Lhuillier, Ignacio Marquina, to mention only the most important.
The work of many of them is free from the arrogant aridity which often characterizes the writings of specialists. It throbs with deep affection for the unknown artists who, over the centuries, built pyramids and palaces, sculptured enormous blocks of stone and manifold steles, painted wonderful frescoes, inscribed the dates of their history on paper, stucco or stone, and whose immense efforts had no tomorrow. This sympathy appeared in a very particular way in Morley's work. The greatest modern specialist in Mayan civilization, he was, in a way, naturalized as a native of Yucatán by settling in the country itself, where he died on his Chenkú; hacienda amidst his chosen friends. On the subject of the beautiful Tepeu ceramics Morley writes: 'Fully aware of my great prejudice in favour of the Maya and their cultural discoveries, I firmly believe that the development of the ceramic art in question is entirely local and has had its centre in the region of Tikal- Uaxactú;n.'