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Unveiling Maya Mysteries


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If you had asked me a few weeks ago if I knew about the Mayas, my answer would have been something like, “Well sure, I know about their calendar predictions, language, architecture—what most people are aware of.” But following an interview I did with Ed Fleming, curator of archeology at the Science Museum of Minnesota, about the museum’s newest exhibit, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed, I’m questioning how much I really know.

Photo by Kenneth Garrett

And apparently I’m not alone. A few years ago the Science Museum started including the Maya in their polls that gage the public’s interest in potential exhibits. The topic consistently ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 area of interest, even though it was one the public didn’t necessarily know much about. “We saw that as an opportunity—there’s a high recognition but a low general knowledge, we can use that to draw people in to see it and learn,” says Fleming.

The exhibit, which opened last week and will run through the end of the year, focuses on the classic era of the Maya’s history, from 300 A.D. to 900 A.D. You’ll be able to learn about the everyday lives of these Mayas—from kings to commoners—as well as bigger picture topics like astronomy, cave archeology, and views of the underworld.

As the museum’s largest exhibition to date (and the largest ever done on this topic in the U.S.), there are nearly 300 objects included, plus the museum’s signature hands-on elements, from replicating building methods to using a calendar glyph generator and examining pollen samples. And after you’ve made your way through the exhibit you can continue your Maya exploration at the Omnitheater’s showing of Mystery of the Maya.

So no matter how much you know—or think you know—about the Mayas, I am willing to bet you’ll still be able to unveil a few mysteries.

Tickets: exhibit and museum admission: adults $21, children (ages 4-12) and seniors (60+) $12; exhibit, museum and omnitheater film: adults $28, children and seniors $19.

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