Did the ancient Maya believe December 2012 would bring the apocalypse?
Opening Saturday, May 5, the Penn Museum’s new exhibition, “MAYA 2012: Lords of Time,” will explore end-of-the-world prophecies and many other intricacies of Maya culture, with a particular emphasis on their calendar and concepts of time.
The ancient Maya reigned over what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador, creating major cities as early as 500 B.C.E. Though their culture was largely destroyed by the Spanish conquest, people of Maya descent continue to live today.
“MAYA 2012,” presented in partnership with the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia of the Republic of Honduras, has a special focus on the archaeological site of of Copán, located in Honduras, which served as the Maya capital city from the 5th to the 9th centuries C.E.
Loa Traxler, curator of the exhibition and the Mellon Associate Deputy Director of the Penn Museum, was part of the team that spent 14 years exploring and unearthing the ruins, including burial chambers, monuments, and ancient offerings.
“It’s really exciting to see artifacts that I literally lifted out of the ground now here on display at the Museum,” she says.
The exhibition coincides with the 30th Annual Maya Weekend, May 4-6. This gathering will provide Maya scholars and enthusiasts with an intellectual immersion in Maya culture, featuring lectures and workshops on Maya history, archaeology, writings, and art. On the evening of Friday, May 4, attendees can also sample Maya-inspired fare and get a special preview of “MAYA 2012.”
To mark the public opening of the exhibition, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, president of the Republic of Honduras, and Penn Museum Director Richard Hodges will lead a ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 5. The Opening Weekend Celebration, co-sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Center, will follow, with Maya and Central American music, dance, and arts and crafts demonstrations at the Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Traxler says they are hoping that “MAYA 2012” makes the Museum a focus for the campus community.
“It’s an opportunity for people at Penn to see the results of their own University’s work, and also to see a world-class exhibition,” she says.
“MAYA 2012” runs through Jan. 13, 2013. Students can receive one free exhibition ticket, and faculty and staff with a PennCard can purchase discounted tickets by visiting the Museum's ticket office.
To register for Maya Weekend or purchase timed-entry tickets for the exhibition, visit the Penn Museum website.
Originally published on April 26, 2012