Artifacts from a lost civilization come to the U.S. for the first time

Civilization flourished in cities of stone built deep in the jungles of Central America. Rather than seeking to tame the jungle, it became vital to the lives and spirit of the Maya, inspiring art, literature, music and religion, enriching their culture and providing natural protection from outside civilizations.

At its height in 600 A.D., the Maya civilization was the greatest in the world. Its population density surpassed every other. Its understanding of science, astronomy and mathematics was equal to or greater than other world cultures at the time. The Maya’s was a sophisticated society built on complex water and land management that turned the jungle into a paradise of abundance and security.

Discover how this “lost” civilization persists today in renewed vibrancy.

Seibal Stela 3

One of the six stelae erected in front of Structure A-6 in Seibal, Guatemala, this stela is divided into three registers. This stela is an excellent example of the hybrid style of the Terminal Classic period, showing the combination of Classical elements (seen in the middle register) and new motifs from Central Mexico (seen in the top and bottom registers). The stela also features Maya hieroglyphs, part of their logosyllabic language. Seibal, Peten, Guatemala, Terminal Classic period (874 CE), limestone. MUNAE, Guatemala

Figurines from El Peru

In 2006, archaeologists discovered the burial place of a previously unknown ruler, accompanied by 23 clay figurines and other objects intended to accompany the king on his journey to the underworld. The figurines were characters in a ceremony to resurrect the deceased king. The figurines lack detailed eyes, possibly to indicate a trance-like state. The group of figurines is unique in Maya art. El Peru, Late Classic period (ca. 600-650 CE), clay. MUNAE, Guatemala

Polychrome Stucco Figure of a Jaguar Warrior

One of the few known examples of large, three-dimensional stucco sculptures discovered with its original colors still preserved. The jaguar-masked figure is believed to represent a mythological feline being – either a high-ranking noble in the guise of a jaguar deity or one of the feline figures from the diverse pantheon of classic Maya deities. Maya Lowlands, Peten, Guatemala, Early Classic period (ca. 250-600 CE). Fundación La Ruta Maya, Guatemala

Cave Painting

This scene, painted on the limestone wall of a cave in the Maya lowlands, records what is interpreted as a period-ending rite. The rather primitive style suggests that the figures were spontaneously painted on the cave wall, perhaps at the end of the ceremony depicted. There is a short hieroglyphic text between them. Maya Lowlands, Early Classic period (ca. 426 CE), alabaster. Fundación La Ruta Maya, Guatemala