Okay so that whole end-of days Mayan calendar thing didn’t pan out in 2012. Personally, I buy the idea that they just ran out of space on that calendar and there’s another one that shows that we carry on a while longer. Still, the Maya were fascinating folk with amazing structures, rituals (including, yes, human sacrifice), a number system and they invented the first rubber ball. Where would any ball sport be without them? We’d be throwing around things that go “thud,” that’s where!
This fascinating culture inspired the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) to co-create and host the largest exhibition of Maya culture in the U.S. “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” opened on Valentine’s Day along with the new Morgridge Family Exploration Center. The new addition to the museum has several Exploration Studios for school and family programs, a revamped Discovery Zone (opening in June) and the Anschutz Gallery. The huge Maya exhibition fills the Anschutz and adjoining Phipps Special Exhibits Gallery, a combined 20,000 square feet of exhibition space!
“Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” boasts 250 artifacts, including “touchable” objects like a sacrificial altar. Creepy. But it elicited cries of “Awesome!” and “Righteous!” from the teenage visitors around us. Imagine that.
DMNS created the exhibit with the Science Museum of Minnesota. Teams from both museums went to Belize to really experience the culture, get a sense of the surroundings and to obtain some of the antiquities. They did a good job of recreating that atmosphere in the exhibition to immerse visitors in the ancient Maya past.
Technology plays a creative part in the exhibit with projected images onto replicas that demonstrate colors, detailed carving and translations of words and images portrayed in stone. My favorite was the virtual archaeological dig, using a giant touch screen. With a swipe of the hand, wipe away layers of ancient earth to reveal skeletons and other artifacts. Find out what you’ve unearthed through pop-up descriptions and excerpts from the notebooks of the archaeologists who worked the dig sites.
Plan on spending about 90 minutes to get through the exhibit. Take your time, read up, touch stuff and try things. It’s an impressive exhibit that will start making its way around the country after it leaves Denver on August 24. “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” is a ticketed event for both members and non-members. Visit the website for details and to purchase timed tickets.
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