dusk near Cuernavaca

dusk near Cuernavaca

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mayan Beauty

In my last post I mentioned that the Palacio Cantón, the mansion of a former governor of Yucatán, later served as Mérida's archaeology museum.  In 2012 a new museum, "El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya" (The Great Museum of the Mayan World) was opened on the far north side of the city.  I visited the new museum a couple years ago.  Although it's a very modern facility with striking architecture, I was not hugely impressed.  It seemed to be more style than substance.  Much of what is in the museum was recreations and replicas rather than genuine artifacts.  I questioned whether or not I should include it on the itinerary when I take friends to Mérida.


Meanwhile, the old Palacio Cantón continues to serve as a venue for special exhibitions.  As we were walking down Paseo Montejo on Friday we noticed that it had an exhibit entitled "Belleza Maya" (Mayan Beauty).  We went inside, and we were very impressed.  I do not have to feel guilty for not taking Frank to the "Mundo Maya" Museum.  This extensive exhibit contained hundreds of pieces of Mayan sculpture, pottery, jewelry, and other objects.

The theme of the exhibit was the Maya's concept of beauty in physical appearance, attire and adornment.

The Mayas viewed crossed eyes as attractive.  Often parents would dangle a bead over their baby's cradle to make the child cross-eyed.

Notice the slanting forehead on this carving of a Mayan noble.  Upper class Mayas would tie boards to an infant's forehead to create this effect which was also considered to be very attractive.

In Mayan tombs on the island of Jaina off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, archaeologists have found large numbers of small clay figurines.  The exhibit contained a large number of these statuettes which provide us a glimpse of how the Mayas dressed.

This exhibit was one of the best I have seen on the Mayas.  I do not know how long it is running, but anyone visiting Mérida in the near future should check out the Palacio Cantón to see if it is still there.

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