Accompanied by a flutist (far left), a Spanish-garbed drummer plays for a figure in a Maya headdress in the Ramírez's main living area, used as a kitchen and living-dining area.
Painted on the house's oldest plaster layer, the images were created after the 16th-century Spanish conquest of Guatemala, said Źrałka, of Poland's Jagiellonian University. The home is at least 300 years old, he added, and the style recalls 17th- to 18th-century illustrated texts from the region.
The ancient Maya were a loosely aligned civilization in what’s now Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Advanced cities in southern Guatemala mysteriously collapsed around A.D. 900, but more northerly, isolated settlements, such as what's now Chajul, soldiered on—though its isolation could save it from the conquistadores for only so long.
(Read about the rise and fall of the Maya in National Geographic magazine.)
As for the enduring Maya remnants on the Ramírezes' walls, Boston University's Saturno said the best way to uncover more about them is to search the history of the house itself.
"There's 500 years of history in this town," he said. "See whose [house] it was. It's unlikely to be just Joe Schmo's house—it's probably an important person's house."
(Video: New Sun God Temple Reveals Maya Beliefs.)