Central America's Mayan civilization exhibit

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Europeans arrived in North America a few hundred years ago, but Central America's Mayan civilization dates back a documented 3,600 years.

Independent of Europe, they developed a written language, a numbering system, and a calendar system much talked-about today.

You can get to know the civilization in "Maya 2012: Lords of Time" a new and groundbreaking exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

It opens to the public Saturday, when the president of Honduras will visit to cut the ribbon.

Penn archaeologist Dr. Loa Traxler has been to Central America many times excavating artifacts and studying the Mayan culture.

She has brought many artifacts to Philadelphia for this exhibit and replicated others. But more than any previous exhibit, "Maya 2012" offers you interactive experiences you and certainly your kids will find compelling.

One touch screen lets you see how the Mayans would render your name in their language. Another lets you input your birth date and see how a Mayan monument would have represented that.

A third panel starts out looking like plain dirt, but when you explore it, you "discover: artifacts. When you drag them to a portion of the screen, they self-identify and you get an explanation of what you just "found". Given the widespread belief that the Mayans predicted the world will end this December, the exhibit also addresses that.

Dr. Traxler told Action News that contemporary Mayans have no preoccupation with apocalyptic events, nor do they expect the world to end this year.

She says it is true the Mayan calendar ends, in a sense, with this year but she says another cycle begins in January and time, as the Mayans reckon it, will go on. Because this exhibit is expected to be immensely popular, it's the first time the museum has set up time-ticketing.

You may go online to "Maya 2012" or phone 888-695-0888. Tickets are $22.50 for adults, with discounts for senior citizens, students, and the U.S. Military. Museum members get complimentary tickets. "Maya 2012" will remain open through January 13th.

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