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Ancient Maya Exhibition Explores 2012 End-of-World Prediction

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I Want to Believe
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« on: March 03, 2012, 01:09:52 am »

Ancient Maya Exhibition Explores 2012 End-of-World Prediction

Tue, Feb 28, 2012

Mayanists help the public get the facts straight on the December 2012 "end of the world" prophecy through a major exhibition about discoveries at Copán in Honduras.
Ancient Maya Exhibition Explores 2012 End-of-World Prediction

In a major new exhibition opening in May in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, scientists will take the public through the facts behind the recent hoopla about the end of the world predicted to take place in December, 2012, and how it originated with the ancient Maya calendar system and the Maya civilization.

The "end of the world" excitement was highlighted by a series of various media splashes about claims that the ancient Maya predicted a cataclysmic event at the end of their calendar, purportedly ending on December 23, 2012. The predictions run the gamut between those that believe that a celestial alignment will bring a series of devastating natural disasters, to those that say that the event will bring enlightenment and a new age of peace. As December 2012 draws closer, new predictions are emerging. But some scholars and scientists hope to be able to dispel the myths and present the facts through a visual public presentation of the mechanisms and culture that underly the Maya calendar system, including recent major discoveries at the ancient Maya center of Copán in Honduras, Central America. It takes place beginning May 5, 2012 at the University of Pennsylvania's world-renowned Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

More than the mysteries of the Maya calendar, the exhibition is expected to bring to public light some of the remarkable achievements of the Maya people who once inhabited this ancient settlement, a city that thrived and dominated a region in present-day Honduras during the Maya Classic period between c. 426 and c. 800 AD.

Says Dr. Loa Traxler, the exhibition curator, the event "offers visitors a rare opportunity to view spectacular examples of Classic Maya art—some of which have never before been seen outside Honduras—and delve into the Maya people’s extraordinary, layered, and shifting concepts about time. MAYA 2012: Lords of Time (the exhibition title) uncovers a history and culture far richer and more surprising than commonly supposed.”

Dr. Traxler, Mellon Associate Deputy Director of the Penn Museum and co-author of The Ancient Maya, (Sixth Edition, 2006), is an archaeologist who excavated at the site of Copán with the Penn Museum's Early Copán Acropolis Program (1989 through 2003). Simon Martin, Associate Curator of the Museum’s American Section and a leading Maya epigrapher, is co-curator of the exhibition.

"The exhibition invites the visitor to explore the ancient Maya’s complex, interlocking calendar systems, which were based on an advanced understanding of astronomy and the night sky", reports exhibition planners. "Their most elaborate system, the Long Count, encompasses trillions of years, and one of its important cycles comes to a close on December 23, 2012 (some scholars say December 21, 2012). This is the origin of the Maya 2012 “end of the world” phenomenon."

What is more, the exhibition draws upon the vast accumulation of knowledge that archaeologists, glyph experts and other scholars have acquired over time through excavation and study. The artifacts tell the story, affording scholars and the visiting public the opportunity to experience a range of interactive activities and view sculptures and full-sized replicas of major monuments, including artifacts that were recently excavated by Penn Museum archaeologists at the site of Copán.

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I Want to Believe
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« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2012, 01:11:48 am »

One of the objects that can be seen at the Maya 2012: Lord's of Time exhibition is this carved tripod vessel and lid.  Among the objects on the Hunal Tomb's floor at Copán, it originally came from a workshop in the central Peten lowlands, most likely Tikal. This ceramic vessel bearing some pigment, circa 437 CE, is an excellent example of a regional style sometimes found in burials at Copán. (8.5” diameter x 9.5” tall) Photo courtesy: Kenneth Garrett.


The exhibition is presented in partnership with the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia of the Republic of Honduras, and will be viewable through January 13, 2013.

For more information about the exhibition, individuals can go to


This article was written and edited by Popular Archaeology staff based on information provided by the Penn Museum. More about the recent discoveries at Copán will be presented in a feature article published in the March issue of Popular Archaeology Magazine.


Cover Photo, Top Left:  The Margarita Panel, a grand, modeled-stucco building panel, measures almost 9 feet high by 12 feet wide. Discovered by a Penn Museum excavation team in the 1990s, it features the emblematic name of Copan's royal founder, K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'. The king's name is shown as two entwined birds: a quetzal bird (k'uk') and scarlet macaw (mo'), with crest elements that spell the initial part of the name yax meaning 'first' or 'green.' Carved around 450 CE it is in remarkable condition, buried deep within the Copan Acropolis. The MAYA 2012 exhibition at the Penn Museum features a replica of this monumental piece in its full-color splendor. Photo courtesy: Early Copan Acropolis Project, Penn Museum.
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