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Mayan artifacts return from China

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With the help of a crane, employees of the Palacio Cantón Museum bring an exhibit back home from China. Photo: Palacio Cantón
With the help of a crane, employees of the Palacio Cantón Museum bring an exhibit back home from China. Photo: Palacio Cantón

The international exhibition “Mayas, el Lenguaje de la Belleza” or “Maya, the Language of Beauty” was shipped recently to the Palacio Cantón after being  in China since November.

But no date has been set for the re-opening of the exhibition on the Paseo Montejo mansion as INAH unpacks and sorts all 238 museum pieces.

The show, which was at the National Museum in Beijing until March, brought to life the 1,200-year history of Mayan civilization. That was the first time a Mexican exhibition was held in China; some objects, including a two-ton monument from the civilization’s classic period, had never left Mexico.

Photo: National Museum of China via INAH.
Photo: National Museum of China via INAH.

The exhibition “Maya, the language of beauty” is part of the trilogy organized by the National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, to share the Mayan culture with the world. Along with the “Maya Revelation of Endless Time” and “Aztecs, Conquest and Glory,” these priceless artifacts have been seen by thousands of people in New Zealand, Australia, China, Brazil and France.

An exhibit of Mayan culture in China was a historic first for Mexico.
An exhibit of Mayan culture in China was a historic first for Mexico.

This collection was gathered from not only the Palacio Cantón, but also the Uxmal Site Museum; Maya Pueblo Museum and the Museum of Dzibilchaltún.

Two sections of the exhibit included sculptures showing an appreciation of the human form. A special set of displays depict the Maya tradition of “head shaping,” a popular practice among the ancient Mayas in which mothers used boards to alter the shape of their newborns’ skulls. Along with other visible markings such as painted skin, tattoos and large earlobes, this cranial deformation represent the culture’s unique aesthetic preferences.

Another section examined the Mayas’ relationship with animals, which they believed were capable of speech and possessed supernatural powers.

“The exhibition focuses on Maya ideas of beauty. Just like other parts of the world, the aesthetics of the Maya people were expressed in many different ways, and finally became a unique form of art,” said José Enrique Ortiz Lanz, the manager of museums and exhibitions for INAH.

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