Monday, July 23, 2007

Ancient MesoAmerica News Updates - Opening Banner
Ancient MesoAmerica News Updates 2007, No. 13: Exhibit - "Five Suns: The Art of Ancient Mesoamerica" at the San Bernardino County Museum
On Wednesday May 16, 2007, the website of The Press Enterprise reported on the new exhibit entitled "Five Suns: The Art of Ancient Mesoamerica" at the San Bernardino County Museum (edited by AMaNU):
Redlands museum exhibit was inspired by Mel Gibson film - The king stood under a stairwell at the San Bernardino County Museum, wearing a jaguar headdress, beaded jewelry and a skirt with a loincloth. He was there for years, maybe even a decade or two, staffers said.
But now the king, who is nearly 6 feet tall, at least 1,100 years old and carved in limestone, will see the light, as part of the museum's "Five Suns: The Art of Ancient Mesoamerica" exhibit, which opens Saturday in Redlands. For years, the museum has been collecting pieces from ancient Mesoamerica, including the Aztec and Mayan civilizations, but a Mel Gibson film helped inspire the exhibit.
Adella Schroth, curator of anthropology at the museum, said the Gibson-directed "Apocalypto," a 2006 release about the decline of the Mayan civilization, got the staff thinking. "We have a lot of Mesoamerican artifacts," she said. Schroth said that the museum has collected more than 800 artifacts, from tiny stamps and figurines to the large stela (carved rock panel) of the king. At least 100 will be on display, many for the first time.
"This is one of my favorite parts. I get to play vicarious archaeologist," exhibit designer Carey Smith said as he examined a large stone pendant. The exhibit focuses on artifacts found in Mexico and Central America, and is about the Mesoamerican creation stories, which revolve around five suns. Smith and his crew and other museum staffers have transformed 1,100 square feet of the hall into a Mesoameric wonderland, with walls painted orange and turquoise and intricate designs on rock carvings in the style of the cultures. "I design as if I'm a kid on a field trip. What am I going to think is cool?" he said.
One of the ideas the museum worked on was a Mayan tomb, complete with a skeleton (a fake one made of resin, there was no grave-robbing involved), artifacts including bracelets and a necklace and a mannequin of an archaeologist they've dubbed "California Jones." "We wanted to convey how an archaeologist at the time would work," Smith said, pointing out a camera and tripod from the 1920s that will be placed in the tomb with Dr. Jones. Staffers from a number of departments at the museum worked to help get the exhibit together.
"There's a lot of connections, even to our area," museum spokeswoman Jennifer Reynolds said. She said the Aztecs traded in the southwest and that a lot of the turquoise and shells used came from what is now Southern California. Schroth said the other cultures introduced obsidian and parrot feathers. There are also interactive stations within the exhibit, such as learning how to count in Mayan.
And in the middle of it all, the jaguar king watches. "We're bringing him back to his environment," Smith said. "It's like the ghosts of all these things have come alive" (written by Vanessa Franko; source


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