Microbial Ecology

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 51–64 | Cite as

Epilithic and Endolithic Bacterial Communities in Limestone from a Maya Archaeological Site

  • Christopher J. McNamara
  • Thomas D. PerryIV
  • Kristen A. Bearce
  • Guillermo Hernandez-Duque
  • Ralph Mitchell


Biodeterioration of archaeological sites and historic buildings is a major concern for conservators, archaeologists, and scientists involved in preservation of the world's cultural heritage. The Maya archaeological sites in southern Mexico, some of the most important cultural artifacts in the Western Hemisphere, are constructed of limestone. High temperature and humidity have resulted in substantial microbial growth on stone surfaces at many of the sites. Despite the porous natureof limestone and the common occurrence of endolithic microorganisms in many habitats, little is known about the microbial flora living inside the stone. We found a large endolithic bacterial community in limestone from the interior of the Maya archaeological site Ek' Balam. Analysis of 16S rDNA clones demonstrated disparate communities (endolithic: >80% Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, and Low GC Firmicutes; epilithic: >50% Proteobacteria). The presence of differing epilithic and endolithic bacterial communities may be a significant factor for conservation of stone cultural heritage materials and quantitative prediction of carbonate weathering.


Proteobacteria Actinobacteria Firmicutes Stone Surface Stone Sample 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BES-9906337) to Harvard University and from the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia to G. Hernandez-Duque. Additional support was provided by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The authors wish to thank the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Leticia Vargas de la Peña, and Alejandra Alonso Olvera for permission and help in collecting samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. McNamara
    • 1
  • Thomas D. PerryIV
    • 1
  • Kristen A. Bearce
    • 1
  • Guillermo Hernandez-Duque
    • 2
  • Ralph Mitchell
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Microbial Ecology, Division of Engineering and Applied SciencesHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Universidad Politecnica de AguascalientesAguascalientesMexico

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