Michael Barnes, head of exhibitions at the Royal BC Museum, Nikolai Grube, chair of the Anthropology of the Americas department at the University of Bonn and Sofia Paredes-Maury, director of La Ruta Maya Foundation, unveil a statue known simply as “the Jaguar Man.” The statue was found by a Guatemalan farmer and entered the art market before being returned to La Ruta Maya Foundation, a Guatemalan agency that aims to repatriate historic pieces of art. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

The jaguar rises at the Royal BC Museum’s new Maya exhibition

The new exhibit will offer pieces from Guatemala that have never been displayed before

Long before Europeans came to Central America the Maya people ruled the land with an advanced society rich in technology, culture, language and spirituality.

At the peak of the Maya hierarchy is the Jaguar, an emblematic figure of power and transcendence between the world of the living and the dead.

This inspired the Royal BC Museum’s newest exhibit Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises, which will open on May 17 until December 31.

“This new exhibition, a world premier, boasts the largest and most impressive display of Maya objects ever seen with more than 300 precious jade, ceramic, stone and textile artifacts reflecting classic and contemporary Maya culture,” said Leah Best, head of knowledge at the Royal BC Museum.

VIDEO: Royal BC Museum unveils rare artifact in upcoming Maya exhibit

Many of the objects have never been seen outside of Guatemala, while others are making their inaugural appearance.

“It’s the largest Maya exhibit which has ever been shown in Canada and probably North America,” said Nikolai Grube, chair of the Anthropology of the Americas department at the University of Bonn.

Grube read aloud passages of carefully preserved Maya hieroglyphics dating back 1300 years and marvelled at how much of the language is still preserved in Central America today.

“One of the aims of this display is to show the continuity of Maya culture from its beginnings in the second and first millennium, before Christ, until the present day,” Grube said. “The great relevance of the exhibition is because this year is the UNESCO year of Indigenous languages. We’ll show the relevance of the Indigenous languages of Guatemala, and the resilience of these languages, a topic which of course resonates here in Canada. “

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A majority of the exhibit focuses on Maya culture between the 2nd-9th century, displaying innovative art, jewellery and architecture. All the pieces are original, with the exception of a few replicas made so that people can touch them.

A smaller portion of the exhibit also shows modern day Maya culture with examples picked from the customs of the six million contemporary Maya people on earth today.

The display will open at 10 a.m. on Friday May 17.

For more information, you can visit royalbcmuseum.bc.ca

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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Nikolai Grube, chair of the Anthropology of the Americas department at the University of Bonn, stands in front of an ancient Maya tablet which displays a king of the time. Originally, the slab had been painted in bright colours. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

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