FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 13, 2020
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Maya: The Exhibition makes US debut at Cincinnati Museum Center
Exhibition invites guests to immerse themselves in Maya culture through over 300 original artifacts
CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is bringing the mysteries of the Maya to the United States for the first time. Maya: The Exhibition immerses guests in a sophisticated civilization buried in the heart of the rainforest. Guests can unearth a world of innovators and gods now at CMC.
Maya: The Exhibition features over 300 original objects that detail daily life, religion, politics and innovations of the Maya. The exhibit design features the civilization’s iconic stepped pyramids and the vibrant colors of Maya artwork. Pristinely preserved clay and stucco figurines and elaborate jade and gold jewelry showcase their artistry. Hieroglyphs carved into massive stone slabs demonstrate their sophisticated writing and passion for history. Large stone carvings and massive stucco sculptures portray the large pantheon of Maya deities. And tools and everyday items reveal the foods, work and play that defined daily life. Interactive elements allow guests to get a more intimate look at certain objects and to even manipulate data from modern archaeological equipment that is allowing for greater discoveries.
“Discoveries of the last 20 years have transformed our understanding of the people and why the great Maya cities were abandoned in the heart of Central America,” says Dave Duszynski, president of Mercury Museum Services, a subsidiary of Cincinnati Museum Center. “Never before has such a spectacular set of Maya artifacts traveled to North America. We are thankful that Guatemala is sharing these amazing national treasures with Cincinnati.”
The Maya flourished in cities of stone carved into the jungles of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. Their civilization dates as far back as 3400 BCE but reached its height in 600 CE, a period when its population density surpassed every other in the world. Their understanding of science, astronomy and mathematics was equal to or greater than other world cultures. They were early disrupters – inventors, innovators and geniuses whose accomplishments continue to shape our daily lives.
By studying the stars they developed a calendar more accurate than any other in the world. Their utilization of the number zero opened the door for advanced mathematics. Rubber balls were essential to Maya sports centuries before the “discovery” of vulcanized rubber. And they introduced the world to chocolate.
“With the Maya we can explore and see how people without any contact to other civilizations in Europe, Africa or Asia came up with similar ideas, inventions and solutions,” say Dr. Nikolai Grube, curator of Maya: The Exhibition and professor of anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn.
While the exhibition looks back at the height of the Maya civilization, it also acknowledges the millions today who still speak a Mayan language and the many more who are direct descendants. Far from being a lost or ancient civilization, the Maya thrive today in renewed vibrancy.
“The Maya civilization was never lost,” says Dr. Grube. “This was a very romanticized 19th century European perspective on the Maya. What was lost were the big cities in the rainforest. The Maya of today preserve many ideas, languages and forms of living of their ancestors.”
The exhibition also includes a section focusing on the archaeological work the University of Cincinnati is doing at Maya sites in Central America. For over three decades, UC researchers have conducted research, fieldwork and analysis to better understand the Maya and what may have led to the abandonment of their large cities. Their research reveals details about how the Maya managed their land, forest and water resources and how they perceived the world around them. The gallery invites guests to consider how the strategies of Maya innovation and adaptation might apply to parallel challenges we face today.
“Although the culture is ancient, Maya sent a very modern message,” adds Dr. Grube. “They were able to live in a tropical jungle without destroying it and they developed a very sophisticated agricultural system, which included the construction of terraces and a system of canals for collecting, managing and preserving water, even in dry seasons. It’s a valuable lesson of resource preservation for all of us.”
Maya: The Exhibition makes it US debut at Cincinnati Museum Center. The exhibition is open through September 7, 2020. Visit cincymuseum.org/maya for more information or to purchase tickets.
Maya: The Exhibition is produced by MuseumsPartner in collaboration with the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (MUNAE) and La Ruta Maya Foundation in Guatemala. It is supported by the Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes de Guatemala.
Member Adult: $14
Member Child: Free
About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of a select few museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation's 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually. For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org.
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