Skip to main content

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Zakład Archeologii Nowego Świata

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Dr hab. Jarosław Źrałka, Prof. UJ

| e-mail:

Telefon: +48 12 663 1279
Telefon: +48 12 663 1476
Telefon: +48 12 663 1294

Instytut Archeologii UJ
Zakład Archeologii Nowego Świata
ul. Gołębia 11
31-007 Kraków

Basic information

Associate professor at the Department of New World Archeology, Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University. He specializes in archeology and the art of Mesoamerica with a special focus on pre-Columbian Maya civilization. In 2000, he defended his master's thesis: ‘Iconography of representations of the Maya rulers on Early Classic stelae from Tikal and Uaxactun, Guatemala’. In 2005, he defended his doctoral thesis entitled ‘Terminal Classic Occupation in the Maya Sites Located in the Area of ​​Triangulo Park and the Problem of their Collapse’. In 2006, the work was awarded by the Prime Minister in the category of outstanding doctoral dissertations. In 2008, the doctorate was published in the form of a book by the Jagiellonian University Press. In 2015 he obtained a post-doctoral degree in humanities in the field of archeology (habilitation). Since 2006, he has been directing (together with Wiesław Koszkul) archaeological research at the Maya site of Nakum located in north-eastern Guatemala. He also conducts a project of documentation and conservation of Colonial mural paintings from Chajul (Highland Guatemala). Dr Jarosław Źrałka is one of the originators and organizers of the Cracow Maya Conference (an annual conference devoted to Maya culture and organized in Krakow).

Scientific interests

  • Mesoamerican art and archeology
  • the origins of Maya culture and the problem of population of the southern Mayan lowlands during the Middle Preclassic period (1000-300 BC),
  • collapse of the Classic Maya civilization,
  • settlement pattern and paleodemography in the Maya lowlands,
  • studies on the iconography of Mesoamerican cultures with particular emphasis on the Maya,
  • graffiti of pre-Columbian Maya and other cultures of the ancient world,
  • Colonial art in Mesoamerica,
  • cultural changes in the Late Archaic and Woodland period in the Eastern Woodland area of North America.


Participant of archaeological research conducted in Guatemala as part of the Proyecto Arqueológico Aguateca conducted in the pre-Columbian Maya site of Aguateca (1999, project run by the Yale University) and Proyecto Triángulo carried out at the sites of Nakum, Yaxha and Naranjito (1999-2003) in northeastern Guatemala (see »Triángulo Project). In 1999 and 2002, together with the Guatemalan archaeologist Bernard Hermes and Justyna Olko from the University of Warsaw, he documented in Nakum more than 100 graffiti, with which the Maya covered the walls of temples and residential buildings (see »Graffiti from Nakum). Between 2001 and 2003, thanks to the official consent of the Institute of Anthropology and History of Guatemala (IDAEH) and the directors of Proyecto Triángulo, he and Justyna Olko conducted independent research on the periphery and settlement pattern of Nakum. In March 2003, he made a preliminary research of the site of El Sombrero, which had not been examined before. In March and April 2004, he participated in research conducted in the central part of Nakum. Since 2006, he heads together with Wiesław Koszkul research of the Nakum Archaeological Project aimed at investigations of the Maya site of Nakum located in northeastern Guatemala. The research has been funded by grants from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the National Science Center, National Geographic (Global Exploration Fund - Northern Europe), the Foundation for Polish Science, the Jagiellonian University and the American Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies Inc. (FAMSI). They have brought many spectacular discoveries that significantly broaden our knowledge of the ancient Mayan culture (see »NAKUM Archaeological Project). Recently, the research of Krakow archaeologists has also been extended to the neighbouring site of Poza Maya located south of Nakum.
Recently, J. Źrałka's research interests have also focused on the area inhabited by the Ixil Maya of Highland Guatemala (El Quiche Department in Guatemala) where he conducts a project focused on documentation, interpretation and conservation of Colonial wall paintings.

Membership in organizations, scholarships, affiliation

Twice (2002/2003 and 2003/2004) scholarship holder of the SYLFF Foundation (Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund, Tokyo Foundation) at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. Scholarship holder of the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) in 2004-2005 (national scholarships for young scientists) and in the period 2009-2010 (Columbus program: internship at the University of Pennsylvania Museum) and 2011-2012 (Exterius program for research at Nakum). He was also a beneficiary of the Adam Krzyżanowski Fund (Jagiellonian University). In the years 2010-2011 he was awarded a scholarship from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in the category of outstanding young scientist. Member of the Society for American Archeology, the Polish Society for Latin American Studies (PTSL), the Polish-American Ethnographic Society in Atlantic City and the European Association of Mayanists (WAYEB) based in Brussels (currently he is the vice-president of the Association). One of the editors of the journal ‘Contributions in New World Archeology’.


  • Grant from American Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies Inc. (FAMSI, for archaeological research in Nakum (Guatemala), realised in 2006; grant no. 06022;  character of participation: Principal Investigator (;
  • Grant for archaeological investigations in Guatemala for the years 2007-2009, from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education; project title: Nakum Archaeological Project:  importance of Nakum for the development of the Maya civilisation, project of archaeological investigations of the Maya culture site in Nakum (Guatemala), grant no: N109 022 32/1234, character of participation: Principal Investigator;
  • Grant/subvention from the Foundation for Polish Science in the category “Columbus – supplementary grants” for the years 2010-2011; the funds were used for the purchase of research equipment, journals and books about Mesoamerican art and archaeology for the library of the JU Institute of Archaeology, and to cover the costs of active participation in two conferences abroad: 29th Annual Maya Weekend (Philadelphia) and Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting (Sacramento), grant no: FNP 01/2011, character of participation: Principal Investigator;
  • Grant from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education under the Iuventus Plus programme, for the research conducted in Nakum, Guatemala, for the years 2011-2012, project title: Sacral and burial architecture and the rituals of the ancient Maya: investigation of Pyramids X, U, and 14 in Nakum (Guatemala), grant no: IP 2010 050670, character of participation: Principal Investigator;
  • Grant from the Foundation for Polish Science under the Exterius programme, for conservation and consolidation of unique objects of art in Nakum (realisation: 2012-2013), grant no: Ex8/2011, character of participation: Principal  Investigator;
  • Grant from the National Science Centre under the OPUS 3 programme; project title: In search of the first Maya at Nakum (Guatemala) [W poszukiwaniu śladów pierwszych Majów w Nakum (Gwatemala)], period of realisation: 03-09-2012 to 02-09-2014, grant no: 2011/03/B/HS3/00686, amount: 293 490 PLN; character of participation: Principal Investigator;
  • Grant from the National Geographic Society - Global Exploration Fund for the investigations in Nakum, grant title: The Nakum Project: Reconstructing the history and rituals of an ancient Maya city, realization: 2013-2015, grant no: GEFNE91-13, character of participation: Principal Investigator;
  • Grant from the National Science Centre under the SONATA BIS programme, project title: On the frontier of two epochs: the Protoclassic period in the Maya Lowlands in the context of research in Nakum (Guatemala) [Na granicy dwóch epok: okres protoklasyczny na nizinach Majów w kontekście badań w Nakum (Gwatemala)]; project no. UMO-2014/14/E/HS3/00534, period of realisation: 15-04-2015 to 14-04-2019; amount: 1 591 488 PLN; character of participation: Principal Investigator;
  • Grant from the National Science Centre under the OPUS 14 programme; project title: Wall paintings from Chajul: documentation, conservation and interpretation of unique murals from the Guatemalan Highlands (Malowidła ścienne z Chajul: dokumentacja, konserwacja i interpretacja unikatowych fresków Majów z wyżyn Gwatemali), realization: 15-10-2018 to 14-10-2021, project no. UMO-2017/27/B/HS3/00847, amount: 1 741 005 PLN; character of participation: Principal Investigator.

Selected publications

Selected publications: full list of publications is accessible on

Źrałka, Jarosław, Katarzyna Radnicka, Monika Banach, Lucas Asicona Ramírez, María Luisa Vázquez de Ágredos-Pascual, Cristina Vidal-Lorenzo, Lars Frühsorge, and Juan Luis Velásquez. 2020. The Maya wall paintings from Chajul, Guatemala. Antiquity 94 (375): 760–779 (June 2020)
Rand, Asta, Varinia Matute, Vaugham Grimes, Carolyn Freiwald, Jarosław Źrałka, and Wiesław Koszkul. 2020. Prehispanic Maya diet and mobility at Nakum, Guatemala: A multi-isotopic approach. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Vol. 32, August 2020.
Źrałka, Jarosław,  Christophe Helmke, Simon Martin, Wiesław Koszkul and Juan Luis Velasquez. 2018. The Monolithic Monuments of Nakum, Guatemala. The PARI Journal XIX(1): 1-28. San Francisco.
Źrałka, Jarosław, Christophe Helmke, Laura Sotelo and Wiesław Koszkul. 2018. The discovery of a beehive and the identification of apiaries among the ancient Maya. Latin American Antiquity 29(3): 514-531
Źrałka, Jarosław, Bernard Hermes and Wiesław Koszkul. 2018. The Maya “Protoclassic” from the perspective of recent research at Nakum, Peten, Guatemala. Journal of Field Archaeology 43(3): 236-256
Źrałka, Jarosław, Wiesław Koszkul, Bernard Hermes, Juan Luis Velásquez, Varinia Matute, Bogumił Pilarski. 2017. From E-Group to Funerary Pyramid: Mortuary Cults and Ancestor veneration in the Maya Centre of Nakum, Peten, Guatemala. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 27(3): 451-478
Źrałka, Jarosław. Pre-Columbian Maya Graffiti: Context, Dating and Function, Wydawnictwo Alter, Kraków 2014, book, 440 pages.
Źrałka, Jarosław, with Wiesław Koszkul. 2015. Archaeological evidence for ancient Maya water management: The case of Nakum, Peten, Guatemala. Antiquity 89(344): 397-416. DOI:
Źrałka Jarosław, Wiesław Koszkul, Katarzyna Radnicka, Laura Elena Sotelo  Santos, Bernard Hermes. 2014. Excavations in Nakum Structure 99: New data on Protoclassic rituals and Precolumbian Maya beekeeping. Estudios de cultura maya XLIV: 85-117, Mexico City.
Źrałka, Jarosław, Bernard Hermes. 2012. Great Development in Troubled Times: The Terminal Classic at the Maya site of Nakum, Peten, Guatemala. Ancient Mesoamerica 23(1): 161-187, Cambridge University Press. DOI:
Źrałka, Jarosław,  Wiesław Koszkul, Simon Martin and Bernard Hermes. 2011. In the path of the Maize God: a royal tomb at Nakum, Peten, Guatemala. Antiquity 85(3): 890-908. DOI:
Źrałka, Jarosław, Wiesław Koszkul. 2010. New discoveries about the ancient Maya: Excavations at Nakum, Guatemala. Expedition 52(2): 21-32, University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia.
Źrałka, Jarosław, Bernard Hermes. 2009. Los grafitos prehispanicos de los sitios Nakum y Yaxha, Peten, Guatemala. Su contexto arqueológico, iconográfico y cronológico. In: Cuadernos de arquitectura y arqueología maya 2, edited by C. Vidal and G. Muñoz, Valencia, pp. 133-158.
Hermes, Bernard, Justyna Olko and Jarosław Źrałka. 2001. En los confines del arte. Los graffiti de Nakum (Peten, Guatemala) y su contexto arquitectónico, arqueológico e iconográfico. Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas 79: 29-69, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, Mexico City.

Web Content Display Web Content Display