Discover Maya

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Discover Maya

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MAYA

Maya Pyramid

Admission

  • Union Station Members $14
  • Adults $19.50
  • Children $14.50
  • Group Admission $10
  • *a fee is added to each ticket to ensure the ongoing preservation of Union Station. Subject to change.

Coming Soon - Limited Engagement

  • Monday - Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Last Ticket Sold 4 pm
  • Photo Policy: Non-flash photo only.
  • All sales final. Online Reservations Encouraged.
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Special thanks to these supporters for helping bring Maya: The Exhibition to Kansas City:

Welcome to a new view of the Maya people

A sophisticated civilization buried in the heart of the rainforest

Immerse yourself in the genius of the Maya – early disrupters living in cities of stone carved into the rainforest. By studying the stars they developed a calendar more accurate than any other in the world. Their discovery of the number zero opened the door for advanced mathematics. Rubber balls were essential to Maya sports centuries before the “discovery” of vulcanized rubber. And they introduced the world to chocolate. Theirs was a civilization of astronomers, mathematicians, inventors and gods.

For the first time in the United States, the mysteries of the Maya come to life. With over 300 artifacts, discover how the Maya live on today – in their inventions that continue to shape our daily lives and in the millions who carry on the Maya tradition in language and lineage.

Unearth a world of gods and innovators
Location
Bank of America Gallery located within Union Station
Type
Educational Historical
Plan For Your Experience
• No food/drink/gum
• Limit phone usage
• Plan to spend at least 120 minutes in the exhibition
• Gallery Closes at 5:00 pm daily
Parking

Explore

Exhibition Videos

Maya Announcement Video

Announcement Video

Maya Intro Video

Maya: The Exhibition

Welcome to MAYA

The exhibition shows when and the reasons why the Maya settled in the jungle and built their cities there. It also reveals how a large population could survive for hundreds of years in the jungle and why ultimately the Maya abandoned their cities and transformed their society.

Over 300 artifacts primarily date from 200 through 900 AD. Most objects have never traveled to North America. The lending institutions have one of the most important Maya collections in the world.

Meet the Maya
Meet the Maya

Meet The Maya

The intro gallery focuses closely on 23 El Peru figurines; miniature statues highlighting the Maya king and queen and their court welcome the visitor. Projection mapping and holographic smoke effects will create an engaging introduction presented around 3 Maya incense burners. The Maya lived at least 5,000 years ago, in the south of Mexico and parts of Central America. Their accomplishments mystify us. How did they grow such large cities in densely forested terrain? They built immense stone structures with no pack animals or carts to carry heavy loads. They grew enough food to feed huge populations, in spite of poor soil. They mastered writing, math, and astronomy. Aided by contemporary LIDAR technology, archaeologists are uncovering the secrets buried in the jungle. While our research is young, the culture is timeless. Today, more than six million Maya are keeping it alive.

Tropical Rainforest

Leaving the first gallery, the visitor is immersed into a tropical rainforest environment of the Maya jungle, nature, animals, mountains and caves. The gallery features a fragment of what is known as the Sistine Chapel fresco of the Maya: a fragment of the San Bartolo mural, along with a complete reproduction. The creation story it conveys is presented in a compelling multi-screen video presentation narrated by a contemporary Maya woman. The Maya lived deep in the tropical rainforest, yet the rainforest also lived deep within them. The jungle’s diversity provided food, shelter, and the basics of life. But its plants and animals were also spiritual counterparts of the humans who shared their world.

Maya Agriculture

The gallery features objects displayed dramatically in Maya pyramid architecture as this area highlights the production of food, agriculture, hunting, domesticated plants, maize. This section includes a child-friendly interactive element on making cocoa. How did the Maya produce so much nutritionally rich food in such challenging soil? Over centuries, these master gardeners developed advanced methods that elude us today. They grew maize (corn), beans, and squash in small urban plots. Planting luxury crops such as cacao for trade also grew their economy.

Garden Cities

Leaving the first gallery, the visitor is immersed into a tropical rainforest environment of the Maya jungle, nature, animals, mountains and caves. The gallery features a fragment of what is known as the Sistine Chapel fresco of the Maya: a fragment of the San Bartolo mural, along with a complete reproduction. The creation story it conveys is presented in a compelling multi-screen video presentation narrated by a contemporary Maya woman. The Maya lived deep in the tropical rainforest, yet the rainforest also lived deep within them. The jungle’s diversity provided food, shelter, and the basics of life. But its plants and animals were also spiritual counterparts of the humans who shared their world.

Gods and Goddesses

The exhibition architecture and environment changes at this point to reflect Maya temple architecture. This area features rituals, offerings, deities, and music as it relates to the gods. Gods were everywhere. The Maya worshiped roughly 8,000 gods, who could change gender and multiply. Any animal could take divine form. The king, part human and part deity himself, could send out his soul to communicate with the spirit world and ask the gods for help.

Maya Script

This section Introduces visitors to Maya languages, writing and calendar. In addition to objects illustrating these themes, there are 3 interactives illustrating the Maya calendar and Maya hieroglyphs. Visitors can enter their birth date and receive the Maya calendar equivalent via email. Script, a gift from Maya creator god Itzamnaaj, was a powerful technology. Kings used the written word to document their authority. Astronomers mapped time itself. Hieroglyphs were used for 2,500 years, but their meaning was lost when Spanish missionaries burned Maya codices (books). Scholars cracked the code only 30 years ago.

Divine Kings and Queens

Dramatic Maya architecture provides the setting for objects that illustrate the Maya king as maize god, and illustrates the divine legitimation of power, and luxury of the royal court. Royals were more than human. After taking the throne, kings and queens became half-god, dressing in luxurious clothes and jewelry that set them apart from the common people. They were members of huge dynasties, some claiming they could trace their ancestors back 100,000 years.

Gaming With The Gods

At the end of the long series of temple gateways, visitors view in the distance three objects in an environment related to the Maya Ballgame. Visitors can play an Augmented Reality Ballgame. The Ball Game was part sport and part ritual —not unlike football or baseball today. Teams represented their cities as spectators cheered from the sides. Players wore padding to protect their knees, shins, and hands from being injured by the heavy ball.

Maya Politics

Moving into dramatically lit galleries, visitors will encounter the political issues at the height of the Maya civilization. This area also features Maya queens and other historical individuals, plus the conflict between the superpowers Tikal and Calakmu. Stela 31 is animated via projection mapping on its surface. Maya politics were subject to the same forces that countries face today. Cities grew into kingdoms that competed for resources. Some rulers formed strategic alliances, but others warred. Many cities fell. Two, in particular, rose to heights never before seen. And then an era ended.

The Great Collapse

The transitional section features objects from the later stages of the Maya civilization before the Spanish conquest. Prolonged warfare destroyed a social structure that had been effective for millennia. The system of government, once so stable, began to fail. With the slaughter of royal dynasties, entire cities collapsed. Some kings survived, but the people questioned their power. After all, once god-like rulers could no longer even provide the basics of life. Around 800 AD, climate change brought long periods of drought. Farmers had no water for crops and the population, formerly so well-nourished, suffered famine. People migrated to more fertile lands and the jungle reclaimed those massive cities of stone.

The Big Transformation

The final exhibition section features objects from the Maya after the abandonment of their cities, experimenting with new forms of art and new materials. Although their cities were lost to the jungle, the Maya themselves did not disappear. Instead, they adapted to a new way of life in the highlands of Guatemala and the Yucatan peninsula. Here they prospered by trading peacefully and sharing the bounty.

The final exhibition section provides a wrap-up of the exhibition and inspiration for the visitor. While much has been discovered in the past 20 years, many mysteries of the Maya remain unsolved.

Since those first cities in the jungle, the Maya have faced numerous challenges. They have been displaced by forces of nature, politics, and industry. However, their culture lives on. Contemporary Maya speak 30 languages, all with a common root.

These Maya plant the heirloom seeds that sustained their ancestors. They create art, music, and literature. They take part in rituals that are sacred to their faith. “Kawinaq: We are still there.”

Nikolai Grube

Meet the Curator

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Nikolai Grube is a professor of anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn. He has been closely associated with several archeological projects in the Maya area and is director of the excavation of Uxul in Campeche, Mexico.

Nikolai Grube

Curator Statement

Almost no other ancient society is associated with adjectives like ‘mysterious’ and ‘lost’ as often as the Maya civilization. The abandonment of large cities in the lowlands of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize and Honduras is one of the great mysteries of archaeology. However, the downfall of the big cities, with their high temples, royal palaces, public squares and wide ceremonial roads, does not mean the end of Maya culture. On the contrary, this led to the development of new forms of cultural expression.

The exhibition focuses on the continuity of the Maya culture from its classical peak to the present. It aims to show that the modern indigenous populations in Guatemala, Southern Mexico and Belize maintain a cultural continuity from pre-Hispanic times to today. The exhibition focuses on the relations of the Maya with their world and their environment.

For the first time, an exhibition takes a look at all social groups and daily life in the rainforest. This cultural-ecological perspective towards the Maya civilization is mirrored in the exhibition concept, which includes both artifacts and current interdisciplinary research. This way, the visitor will gain a holistic perspective of the Maya civilization in relation to nature and the environment.

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