Photo Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum 

Explore the science and belief that shaped the Maya identity at the Royal BC Museum’s world premiere of Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises

In the tropical rainforest of Central America, the powerful Maya culture rose for thousands of years. Now through December 31, 2019, you can explore the rich civilization like never before at the Royal BC Museum.

The world premiere of Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises boasts the largest and most impressive display of Mayan objects from Guatemala. It includes nearly 300 precious jade, ceramic, gold, stone, and textile artifacts.

Exploring the Mayan Exhibit at the Royal BC Museum.

Photo Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum 

Many of the items have never been seen in North America before, including elaborate incense burners, magnificent jade and gold jewelry, and the exhibition’s namesake, a remarkable three-meter-long lime-and-stucco sculpture of a man with the attributes of a jaguar, dating from between 250 and 600 BCE.

The exhibit’s entrance is surrounded by the sound of bird calls, animals’ squeaks, and insects buzzing — authentic recordings captured in the tropical forest of Guatemala’s lowlands.

You’ll have the chance to wander through a replica of a Tikal temple, where you’ll be introduced to the Mayan’s gods. Don’t miss the murals of San Bartolo — one of the most unique features of the exhibit. The murals are a relatively new discovery — found roughly 50 years ago.

Learning about Mayan culture at the Royal BC Museum.

Photo Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum 

Original hieroglyphic panels feature 160 glyphs. They are designed to be read left-to-right, top-to-bottom in double columns. While the knowledge of this ancient written language was destroyed during the Spanish conquest, approximately 70 to 80 percent of the Mayan hieroglyphs have been deciphered.

One of the cornerstone pieces on display—the exhibit’s namesake—is a jaguar sculpture. It was discovered by a construction crew while they demolished a cattle ranch in Guatemala. Near the center of the sculpture you’ll see a visible crack.

The crack was caused by trying to lift the sculpture from the ground using ropes. The attempt would have been successful, if the sculpture had indeed been made of stone. Unfortunately, it’s made of stucco. Luckily, the beauty and significance of this piece remains.

Viewing Mayan Tablet

Photo Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum 

It depicts a man dressed as a jaguar creeping across the floor. The jaguar is one of the most important animals in Maya mythology. It’s seen as the ruler of the Underworld. Jaguar deities were also believed to protect individual communities against external threats. As such a revered deity, the jaguar became a symbol of political and military power.

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