Monday, July 29, 2013

The Ancient Maya invade Minnesota

Maya blood ritual
On my pilgrimage to the land of 10,000 lakes this last week I had the opportunity to visit the Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota with my sister and brother-in-law.  Ancient Mesoamerica has been completely off my personal academic radar, so I was pretty excited to get a little bit of orientation to the field of Maya studies (you can check out the post on Maya hieroglyphs here).

If you have the opportunity I would recommend checking out the exhibit.  It is designed very well and manages to keep the attention of a wide range of audiences.  I won't give a play by play, but will just briefly point out some highlights:

  • Instead of doing the headphone audio tours that I've seen at many museums, this exhibit has touch video screens throughout with short (2 minutes or so) videos on different topics you can watch.   
  • How do we know what we know?  The exhibit does not merely present "facts" about the Maya that seem to have dropped from ancient fact heaven.  It gives attention to how we know what we know and to the processes involved in historical reconstruction.
  • It has a good blend of artifacts, replicas, and interactive elements (you can wear an ancient forehead strap backpack and pick up a replica of the rubber balls they used for their games).
  • It touches on a wide range of topics: urban planning, hieroglyphs, reasons for the fall of the civilization, environmental issues, sports, food, textiles, burial, art, calendar, astronomy, and more.
  • It recognizes that while the ancient Maya civilization 'fell,' that there are still nearly 10 million Maya alive and well in the world today.
  • It has a touchscreen program that allows you to print out a little bookmark with your birthdate written in the Maya dating system.  How fun is that?
I will probably be posting some pictures of the exhibit from time to time on Twitter (@ancientbookshlf), but here are a few interesting ones:

My friend Mike pointed out that this looks like the Grinch after a particularly long night.

Replica of a rubber ball.  This is the first time I've ever found myself interested in sports.

In the back left you can see the ancient ancestor of today's Internet cat memes.

Replica of the Dresden codex.  As a text guy I found this to be a real treat.

No comments:

Post a Comment