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Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed
Courtesy of D. and A. Chase, Caracol Archeological Project

Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed

The Maya created one of the great civilizations of the ancient world. They independently developed advanced writing, mathematics, timekeeping, and a cosmology. The Maya are well known for their monumental architecture and art, an elaborate body of astronomical knowledge, a complex political organization headed by royal dynasties, and the most sophisticated writing system in the ancient Americas. The great Maya cities gradually declined in a shifting pattern of rise and fall, and were eventually abandoned—yet the Maya people endure and maintain many cultural practices and beliefs that link them to their past. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed explores ancient Maya society through the eyes of powerful kings and queens and the farmers, artisans, administrators, and craftsmen who supported the elite and made up the foundations of these ancient states. Premiering at the Science Museum of Minnesota in 2013, the exhibit features evocative environments, authentic artifacts and interactive activities to tell the stories of both the ancient Maya and their modern descendants.

The exhibition uses inspiring artifacts from throughout the Maya world, compelling interactive exhibits, and evocative environments to make the lives of the Maya relevant, accessible, and approachable to visitors. While much is known about the Maya elite, popular information about the Maya working classes is less accessible. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed gives visitors views of the ancient Maya that crosscut their society and geography.

Development of Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed was led by the Science Museum of Minnesota in conjunction with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Museum of Science, Boston, and the San Diego Natural History Museum.

BACK TO PROJECT HISTORY

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Stelae
Stelae
To assert their direct link to the gods, rulers commissioned carved stelae. Glyphs and images described a ruler's royal pedigree or his or her role in historical or mythological events.

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Epigraphy timeline
Epigraphy timeline
Spin the blocks to learn how scholars cracked the Maya code. An ingenious series of breakthroughs has allowed epigraphers to decipher Maya hieroglyphs and gain new understanding of ancient Maya history.

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West facade, El Castillo pyramid (replica)
West facade, El Castillo pyramid (replica)
Maya builders reflected their worldview in their colorful and imposing cities.

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Build an arch
Build an arch
Maya builders used corbeled arches to create doorways and interior spaces, which limited the size of their rooms.

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Try a tumpline
Try a tumpline
Put the block in the figure's arms and find the balance point. Then put the block on the tumpline and find the balance point. How would you prefer to carry a heavy load?

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Lift the ballgame ball
Lift the ballgame ball
How heavy is the ball? Ballplayers used a heavy, bouncy ball—a quality unknown in Europe at the time—made from natural latex mixed with juice from morning glory vines.

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Section: Making a living
Section: Making a living
In a typical Maya household, an extended family worked together to grow food, raise children, honor their ancestors, and make household items. Many households also produced woven cloth, tools, jewelry, pottery, or other goods for trade.

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Section: Death and rebirth
Section: Death and rebirth
Hidden beneath the land of the living lay the watery underworld: Xibalba. Decay and human suffering lurked in Xibalba’s shadows, but it was also a place of creation and fertility. New life sprouted in the dark and damp.

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Mural room #1 (replica)
Mural room #1 (replica)
The murals of Bonampak provide an unparalleled view of elite life and warfare in ancient Maya society.

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Try using a bow drill
Try using a bow drill
Be a Maya dentist. Use the pictures to assemble your tool and get drilling. Maya dental modification, though done with tools that seem crude by our standards, yielded results that have lasted thousands of years.
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