In 1977, after a crew of workmen unwittingly uncovered several wooden boxes with skeletal remains in a secret crevice beneath the revered resting place of Francisco Pizarro, a debate began among local physicians and historians over which set of remains were truly those of the famous Spanish Conquistador. Dr. Maples was asked to aid in the investigation and in the summer of 1984, he and several colleagues traveled to Lima, Peru, in order to examine the newly found remains.
While Dr. Maples’ personal account of his involvement with the Pizarro investigation started with a colleague’s suggestion of collaboration, this portion of the exhibit begins in media res, with Dr. Maples and several men looking down at a mummy. Unlike an oral or written narrative, disseminating material via an exhibition means was must carefully selelct images and documents which visually tell the story in a limited space.
The most arresting images from the Pizarro investigation are the close ups of the examined bones. Often paired with a ruler or scratches of notation along the margins, these photographs, created with the intention of scientific study and future publication, become compelling peaks and valleys of white and grey, many of which are photographed above a stark black background.
Though these images compose the majority of the Pizarro display, it was necessary to include documents that relayed some essential particulars of the investigation, specifically, a hand-written letter from Betty Gatliff, a leader in forensic facial reconstruction, describing her progress with a clay recreation of Pizarro based on the cast taken from the recently uncovered skull.
Soon after, Maples and his associates positively identified the hidden skeletal remains as those of Pizarro, concluding that the long displayed remains were likely misidentified due to time and a series of natural disasters. Maples was able to indentify cause of death as...