Fascinating Belizean Maya artefacts highlight US museum tour

Belizean Maya artifacts and artwork are featured in an important new Maya art exhibition, The Fiery Pool, traveling the US. The exhibition is the result of new discoveries and a breakthrough in the translation of Maya glyphs, according to organizers.

Belize Maya civilisation existed from about 2000 B.C., peaked, and then collapsed about 1,000 years ago. A complex culture with advanced writing, an accurate calendar, highly evolved mathematics and precise astronomical calculations, the Maya built huge, well planned cities, massive pyramids, temples and palaces.

It has only recently been realised how important the Caribbean sea, referred to by the Maya as The Fiery Pool was to their cosmology and belief systems. Recent breakthroughs in translating ancient hieroglyphics, or glyphs, indicate that the Maya believed the sun was born each day in the Fiery Pool and traveled to an island in the west known as Jaina, where it disappeared, only to be born again the next day.

The exhibition, organised by the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Massachusetts, features Belizean Maya artifacts such as the 10-pound carved jade of Kinich Ahau – The Maya Sun God, that appears on all one-dollar pieces in Belize.

Also on display is the only known Maya representation of the Caribbean spiny lobster, a unique piece excavated at Lamanai in Belize in 2007. The entrance to the exhibit showcases a 10-foot-high façade of a temple found in Belize with three masks depicting the Water Lily Serpent.

The Fiery Pool contains over 90 works from the Mundo Maya region of Central America, many of them recently excavated and never exhibited overseas.

“Everywhere we went in Mexico and Central America, we consulted with Maya specialists, sharing with them our theory that the sea and water were actually central to the Maya, even those who lived far inland. Many artistic motifs actually called this out but no one recognized it before,” Fiery Pool organiser Daniel Finamore said. “These conversations inspired people to show us things that they otherwise wouldn’t have, objects recently excavated and never published that might fit the theme.”

Maya archeological sites in Belize continue to yield new discoveries and a few more pieces to the puzzle of this enigmatic and fascinating civilisation each year. As the Winter Solstice of December 21 2012 approaches and more interest is focused on the Maya of Belize we can expect further insights into what was surely the most advanced culture of the ancient New World.

Chaa Creek, which has long hosted Maya research in its 365 acre private nature reserve rich in Maya history and archaeological sites, looks forward to participating in further exciting research and introducing more people to this rich, important legacy of our collective humanity.

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