|The ancient city of Palenque will be the focus of the new exhibition. Photo by Tato Grasso,|
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A major exhibit focusing on the ancient Maya will open at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum in mid-November.
It’s called Maya - Secrets of their Ancient World.
The Ancient Maya flourished in Central America throughout the first millennium AD, before collapsing in the 8th and 9th centuries. They built cities in the jungle, developed their own writing system and created a complex calendar. The Mayan people are still around today, struggling to survive in a region that has greatly changed.
The exhibit will stay in Toronto through the New Year and into 2012. Plans are also being made for it to appear at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.
Dr. Justin Jennings, lead curator of the exhibit, briefly discussed the project just hours ago at an event held by Friends of Archaeology, one of the societies that support the museum.
“Really what we’re going try to do with this Maya show is take you all the way back to the 7th century AD and take you back to the classic Maya,” he said.
A good portion of the exhibit will focus on the ancient city of Palenque. The centre of a kingdom, the site is known for its palace and temples and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition to artefacts the exhibit will include reproductions of parts of the ancient city, showing what it looked like in antiquity. “It’s going to look like, not what you’re going to see at Palenque today,” said Dr. Jennings, but rather “Palenque back in the 7th century, we’re trying to give you a sense of that.”
Details on specific artefacts are slim but Jennings did discuss how the exhibition is set out.
“The way which we’re going to start this show – Secrets of their Ancient World – is to begin by going back to the initial moments of discovery,” he said. In the 19th century, explorers penetrating into the jungles of Central America came across the ruins of Mayan cities. Overgrown with vegetation the discovery piqued their interest, leading to formal scientific study in the century ahead.
Continuing on, the exhibition turns to the city of Palenque and its hinterland, followed by a section on Mayan warfare and sacrifice. It then leads to the palace. “Where a projection or maybe even something built (will be) showing the front of the palace,” said Jennings.
The exhibit will also look at the modern Maya and the famous Mayan calendar which, some argue, predicts the end of the world in 2012. “We’ll talk about 2012 and how you’re world is going to end or not end.”
A rushed timeline
Jennings said that the curators have faced a rushed timeline in trying to put it together. “Usually what you want to do with a show like this, you want to have at least three years from the time you decide you’re going to do it, to when you open the doors,” he said.
“We’ve had less than a year and a half.”
The reason for the rush is that originally the museum was going to do a show on the Aztecs, another ancient Mesoamerican culture based in Mexico. That didn’t work out. “We found that the objects we had hoped (to get) ended up being in Australia and New Zealand at same time they were supposed to be in Toronto.”