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Peabody Essex Museum Opens Maya Exhibition
Incensario con imagen de Chaac y tocado de tiburón. Museo de Sitio Zona Arqueológica Palenque, Chiapas. Photo: INAH.
SALEM, MA.- Integrated by masterworks of Maya Art, the exhibition Fiery Pool: the Maya and the Mythic Sea was inaugurated at Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, Massachusetts, United States. The showcase based on new interpretations regarding the relevance of the ocean for the Prehispanic civilization, will be open from March 27th to July 18th 2010.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) lent 22 pieces lodged at the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA); Yucatan Regional Museum “Palacio Canton”; Tabasco Regional Museum “Carlos Pellicer Camara” and Comalcalco Archaeological Site Museum, in Tabasco, and from the Museum of Maya Architecture and Museum of Archaeology, both in Campeche.

Surrounded by sea, Maya people considered water was the source of life. Almost 100 objects, many of them never exhibited in the United States, represent the influence of water in Maya cosmology, its role in their supernatural interpretation as well as its impact on aspects of quotidian life such as commercial practices and power dynamics.

Shark teeth, stingray spines, supernatural crocodiles, sea creatures and waterfowl are represented in stone and clay works that account for the Maya concept of sea through their development between 300 and 900 AD.

The archaeological heap lent by Mexico to Peabody Essex Museum is part of the exchange program that will allow pieces from this institution to be exhibited at the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) at Moana, Los Mares del Sur (Moana, the South Seas), which includes objects from The Field Museum and de Young Museum.

Fiery Pool: the Maya and the Mythic Sea is organized in four thematic sections. Water and Cosmos, Creatures of the Fiery Pool, Navigating the Cosmos and Birth to Rebirth are the sections where sea appears as the source of life, as off material and spiritual richness for Maya people. Items from Belize and Guatemala are exhibited as well.

The showcase was organized by Daniel Finamore, Curator of Maritime Art and History at the Peabody Essex Museum and Stephen D. Houston, Professor of Social Science and Professor of Archaeology at Brown University. The exhibition is scheduled to travel to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Saint Louis Art Museum.

"We consulted with Maya specialists (from Mexico and Central America), sharing with them our theory that the sea and water were actually central to the Maya, even those who lived far inland. Many artistic motifs actually called this out but no one recognized it before," said Daniel Finamore.

Among artwork exhibited stands out a ceramic incense burner decorated with an aquatic deity from the heap of Palenque Archaeological Site Museum.

Peabody Essex Museum | Fiery Pool | Maya Exhibition | The National Institute of Anthropology and History |


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