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Exhibition at Canadian Museum of Civilization exposes doomsday prophecy and secrets of the Maya
Lid of jar with monkey and cacao pods. This whimsical lid probably depicts a spider monkey, a cacao lover, wearing a collar of the cacoa’s pods. Sitting upon a now-lost jar, the monkey jealously guarded the precious cacao seeds that the vessel likely held. Ceramic, Late Classic Period (600-900 CE). Photo ©CONACULTA.-INAH.-MEX. Jorge Vertiz 2011.

GATINEAU.- The ancient Maya civilization rose to incredible heights over 1,500 years ago, then mysteriously faded away, leaving behind its jungle cities, grand pyramids and wondrous artifacts. Who were these people and what became of them? The answers are revealed in MAYA – Secrets of Their Ancient World, a landmark exhibition opened Friday May 18, 2012 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Sweeping in its scope, the exhibition provides a compelling look at a civilization that once thrived from southern Mexico to the northern tip of South America. It features close to 250 outstanding artifacts drawn from museums in the Americas and the United Kingdom. The objects include some of the most recent and significant archaeological discoveries linked to the Maya Classic Period (250–900 CE), when the civilization was at its peak. Some of the artifacts are on public display for the first time ever.

MAYA was co-produced by the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in collaboration with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. The Mexico Tourism Board is the supporting partner of the exhibition.

“This international collaboration has produced an exhibition of exceptional quality,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “As Canada’s national museum of human history, we are proud to bring such a fascinating and important story to the nation’s capital. We are also grateful to our partners at the ROM and the National Institute of Anthropology and History for generously sharing their expertise and resources.”

“The story of the ancient Maya has been veiled in mystery for centuries,” said Dr. Jean-Luc Pilon, in-house curator of the exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. “Recent archaeological discoveries have lifted that veil, dispelling old myths and revealing a culture and history of remarkable complexity. This exhibition reflects the leading edge of that scholarship.”

MAYA takes visitors on a journey into the heart of a great Maya city during the Classic Period. It invites a modern audience to explore beliefs and rituals profoundly different from their own, including human sacrifice and auto-bloodletting. It provides insight into the sacred roles of divine rulers and the grandeur of palace life. The exhibition also sheds light on the Maya’s unique—and still not completely deciphered—written language and complex calendar system. And it takes a sober look at the December 21, 2012 end-of-days prophecy attributed to the ancient Maya.

The impressive array of artifacts includes large sculptures, ceramics, masks and jewellery. Among the many notable objects are two exquisitely carved stone doorway lintels depicting blood sacrifices, and the limestone Tablet of the Warriors from Temple XVII depicting a captured warrior kneeling in front of a king from the renowned city-state of Palenque.

MAYA – Secrets of Their Ancient World is presented at the Canadian Museum of Civilization from May 18 to October 28, 2012.

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