The pyramid Temple of Kukulcan in the ancient city of Chichén Itzá, which still stands at its site on the Yucatan Peninsula in eastern Mexico, has been a sacred place for the Mayan people for centuries.

WATCH: Maya mixes the ancient with the contemporary at the RBCM

New ‘world-leading’ exhibit offers many pieces not seen before by the public

Featuring a mix of ancient and contemporary Mayan cultures and a collection of pieces, some of which the North American public has not seen before, the newest temporary exhibition at the Royal BC Museum is something special, indeed.

Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises opened its seven and-a-half month run last week and received a solid turnout of visitors over the long weekend, a fact that bodes well for the rest of 2019.

Joanne Orr, RBCM deputy CEO and vice-president, Collections, Research and International Programs, said the museum feels “incredibly privileged” to host this exhibition, noting that she expects many visitors will come to the city specifically to see it.

“This is the first place that you will be able to see some of these artifacts outside of Guatemala,” she said. “The quality of this is global, world-leading and I think it will attract people to visit Victoria.”

Inside the RBCM’s special gallery space, there’s little in the way of barriers between the visitor and the artifacts, leaving one to savour the experience of seeing such relics up close and personal. Even the namesake of the exhibition, the massive stone jaguar figure, crouches on a stand on the floor in the gallery, allowing you to almost go nose-to-nose with this ancient sculpture.

From large carved stone monuments and altars to smaller, daily-use items, ceremonial clothing and artwork, visitors will feel they’ve glimpsed life in Mayan communities from today back to ancient times.

READ: Royal BC Museum unveiling rare artifacts in upcoming Maya exhibit

“We have some objects that were only excavated a couple of years ago, so some of them have not been seen by the public,” Orr said. The exhibition helps illustrate how new science and research has allowed for a better understanding of ancient Mayan civilizations – thousands of years old – and the interaction between dynasties, “the complexity of which will rival Game of Thrones,” Orr noted with a grin.

She added that the Mayan culture is alive and well, with over 30 indigenous languages still spoken today, a fact she said resonates very closely with B.C. and Victoria. The exhibition provides context by covering contemporary Mayan culture as well as the ancient civilizations, she added.

Admission to Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises, is included with a regular ticket to the museum. It runs until Dec. 31. Visit royalbcmuseum.bc.ca for more details.



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This example of ancient ceremonial garb is part of the Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises exhibition at the Royal BC Museum. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

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