Cincinnati Museum Center extends Maya: The Exhibition US debut

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is extending Maya: The Exhibition’s first stop in the United States. The blockbuster exhibition featuring over 300 original objects immerses guests in a sophisticated civilization buried in the heart of the rainforest. Maya: The Exhibition has been extended through April 4, 2021.

The exhibition showcases over 300 original artifacts on loan from the nation of Guatemala, each detailing an aspect of the daily life, religion, politics and innovations of the Maya. Its design evokes 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 the Maya’s sophisticated writing and their passion for telling their own history, often in the form of their rulers’ reigns. 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.

“Never before has such a spectacular set of Maya artifacts traveled to North America,” said Dave Duszynski, president of Mercury Museum Services, a subsidiary of Cincinnati Museum Center. “Discoveries of the last 20 years have transformed our understanding of the Maya people and we’re thankful that Guatemala has shared these amazing national treasures with Cincinnati for a bit longer.”

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 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,” said 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 an ancient civilization, the Maya thrive today in renewed vibrancy.

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,” added 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 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.

Maya: The Exhibition at Cincinnati Museum Center is supported by Kroger and The Ruth J. and Robert A. Conway Foundation.

Maya: The Exhibition extends its US debut through April 4, 2021 at Cincinnati Museum Center. Visit cincymuseum.org/maya for more information or to purchase tickets

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