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.
"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.
"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 PE.com).