Elaborate royal tombs, ancient languages, human sacrifice, sports and extraordinary architecture. All define the fascinating Maya civilization that is the bedrock of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science’s traveling exhibition – Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. The largest traveling Maya exhibition ever to tour the U.S., the 10,000 square-foot display brings together more than 200 authentic artifacts and immersive environments to explore the astonishing accomplishments of one of the most powerful indigenous Mesoamerican civilizations, which still has millions of living descendants today.
We learned how the Maya built towering temples and created an intricate calendar system while discovering what archaeologists have uncovered about the once-hidden ancient Maya and the unresolved questions about why these ancient cities declined so rapidly. Through hands-on activity stations complete with video and simulations, we deciphered hieroglyphs, learned cultural and architectural techniques, and explored an underworld cave, ancient burial site, mural room and more.
At the beginning of the exhibit is a wonderful interactive display that teaches about Maya numbers and writing (glyphs). We even learned that a 15 year old boy studied glyphs and realized that they represented a phrase rather than just a single sound as had previously been thought. Never underestimate the brilliance of youth.
We saw several replica large-scale carved monuments, or stelae, that were erected in the great plazas of Maya cities.
Their inscriptions have given scholars valuable insight into ancient Maya history – from royal succession to political conflicts and great battles.
The kids played archeologist and worked to recreate a broken pot that would have been found at an ancient Maya site.
The broken pieces called potsherds would have been collected at the site and brought back to the lab to be examined and put back together. Rachel loves puzzles so she put together both available pots. The taller one is a bit trickier.
They both had fun creating a Maya name for themselves. Nicholas chose Fire Bat.
Rachel created the name Princess Flower. They got to print a card to keep that included their name written in Maya glyphs.
There are more than 200 authentic artifacts including spectacular examples of Maya artistry made by masters of their craft, along with objects from everyday life. Examples include an inkpot made out of a seashell which still retains the dried pigment colors hundreds of years after active use, numerous vessels and figurines; and more. I particularly like the turquoise earrings in this case.
The Maya made balls from a rubber tree and morning glory vine. They were a bit heavier than balls we use today but they used them in sports and games.
We got a glimpse at a cross-section of Maya life – from divine kings who ruled powerful cities to the artisans and laborers who formed the backbone of Maya society.
The kids learned about Maya architecture and their use of corbeled vaults like this one.
Then they were given a challenge to create their own corbeled vaults. Rachel took the easier challenge.
Nicholas went a little wild but you will notice that there is a corbeled vault in there.
We learned that the Maya buried their dead underground. We also learned about their belief in ritual and human sacrifice as a means for them to speak to their gods.
The Maya developed an amazing calendar and this interactive station let us explore how it worked. It was fascinating.
We studied some Maya bones and learned about what they can tell archaeologists about how the ancient Maya lived.
The ancient Maya believed in beauty. We learned how they used a bow drill to make a hole in their teeth in order to place a jeweled inlay - just for decoration!! It makes me cringe just thinking about it!
They also had beautiful headdresses and jewelry. The kids got to use an interactive computer to see how they would look dressed in Mayan garb.
PROGRAM EXTENSIONS. The Perot Museum will offer a myriad of Maya-related programs and events including First Thursday Late Night: Archaeology on May 4, the adults-only Social Science: Patterns on June 23, and the family-fun Discovery Days: Architecture on July 8.
HOURS. General hours of operation for the Perot Museum are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. On the first Thursday of the month, the Museum will stay open until 9 p.m. for its First Thursday Late Night public events. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Museum stays open until 6 p.m.
Member mornings. From 9-10 a.m. every Saturday and 11 a.m.-noon every Sunday, members can enjoy exclusive access to the Perot Museum and Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed.
TICKETS. Museum general admission is $19 for adults (18-64), $12 for youth (2-17), $13 for seniors (65+) and free for children under 2. Museum general admission is free for members. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed requires a surcharge for a total admission cost of $29 for adults (18-64), $20 for youth (2-17), $21 for seniors (65+), and free for children under 2. Member tickets are $5 for all age levels.
The Perot Museum is located at 2201 N. Field Street in Dallas, Texas. For parking information and other details, visit perotmuseum.org or call 214-428-5555.
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