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Mayan Exhibit About To Debut At Science Museum

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – They’ve featured some spectacular exhibits over the years, but now the folks at the Science Museum of Minnesota are about to debut their biggest one yet.

If you’ve driven by the Science Museum in downtown St. Paul recently, you may have noticed a huge poster on the building that advertising the forthcoming Maya Hidden Worlds Revealed exhibit. It’s all about the ancient Maya, who lived in places like southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador centuries ago.

The Maya people are known for their extravagant architecture, fascinating culture, and distinctive art, so much so that visitors to the Science Museum kept asking questions about them.

“After people told us they were interested in the Maya, we asked them what they knew. There were

pyramids in the jungles of Central America, and there were human sacrifices, but they didn’t know much else,” Mike Day, vice-president at the Science Museum, said.

For a long time, people didn’t believe that such an advanced civilization existed until archaeologists began discovering artifacts.

“The Maya are well known for the cities they built in the jungles of Central America,” said Dr. Ed Fleming, an archaeologist and exhibit curator. “They are well-known for their accomplishments in astronomy and time-reckoning. They created several calendars to predict celestial events to determine when to plant their crops.”

The Maya exhibit spans 15,000 square feet and includes videos, interactive displays and sound effects. Some of the artifacts there were uncovered by archaeologists in the early 1900s, others as recently as 2010.

“These objects we have in the show are invaluable. They are one of a kind, scientifically very significant,” Fleming said. “Nothing can happen to these objects.”

About half of the items came from a museum in Belize. The rest came from the collections at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. Their staff decided on the content, meaning they chose which items should be included, and designed the layout of exhibit.

It is the largest traveling exhibit ever put together by the Science Museum of Minnesota. It’s also the largest and most comprehensive exhibit about the Maya culture ever.

It opens to the public this Friday, and after it closes here in January it will move to the museum in Denver. There are few museums in the U.S. capable of displaying something so big that also requires a great deal of expertise to show.

On Wednesday, WCCO-TV will take a closer look at some of the specific artifacts and replicas you can to see, and give you a look at the tedious task of installing those priceless items.

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