Your Mayan Questions all Answered at the Penn Museum’s Family Friendly Mayan Exhibit

Posted on: May 25th, 2012 by

By guest blogger, Randi Kobielnik, from SAHM’s Crazy Life who recently visited the Maya 2012 exhibit at the Penn Museum on behalf of Jersey Family Fun.



We all have heard by now about how the Mayans believed that this was the year that the world will end. Guess what…the Mayans did not predict this nor ever suggest it! In recent years, the media have been filled with claims that the Maya predicted a cataclysmic event at the end of their calendar. Some believe that a celestial alignment will bring a series of devastating natural disasters. Others argue that this event will bring enlightenment and a new age of peace. As December 2012 draws closer, new predictions continue to surface. But the Maya believed had an elaborate system called The Long Court and it encompasses TRILLIONS of years and one of its important cycles comes to an end on 12/23/12. This is the origin of the “Maya 2012 – end of the world” phenomenon. Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the Press Preview of the exhibit and was in awe of how beautiful the artifacts were. I also enjoyed learning more about the Mayans.


We learned how the people of Honduras are certain that this year provides us a unique opportunity to share part of their history and culture with the world. Located in the Western highlands of Honduras, Copan is a shining jewel if the Maya civilization and many of the pieces at the exhibit come from there. Scholars have given the Ruins of Copan the label of “Athens of the New World” because it possesses the most beautiful and detailed sculptures of any city in Pre-Columbian America. Even though the Maya abandoned this city many centuries ago, the legacy of the Maya lives on in Copan Ruinas today. It lives in the smiles of the people who live and work in this small town surrounded by ancient stories and tropical rainforests.


The Government of Honduras and the University of Pennsylvania have been working together to explore the wonders of Copan for almost three decades! Maya 2012: Lords of Time is a celebration of this collaboration.


I really enjoyed the interactive pieces and I know lil man will too.

  • You can create your own Maya identity by combining Maya glyphs.
  • Learn about the Maya calendar.
  • See your birthday transformed into a Maya date.
  • There is a Maya Archaeological Exploration Touch Table where you can try to uncover artifacts yourself.
  • Ask an expert video kiosks are fun too, you can hear different perspectives for each one.

I had the pleasure to interview Co-Curator Simon Martin. He is an expert in Maya hieroglyphic writing and specializes in the history and politics of the Classic Maya (250-900 CE). Among other publications that Simon wrote “Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens” (with Nikolai Grube) from 2000. Here is the interview….

Me: How long did take you to learn the hieroglyphics?

Simon: Well I actually started for fun. But it was about a year. My mother now says that I don’t have a job I have an obsession especially since my social life usually has some form of my job involved.

Me: Basically you have the best of both worlds you are working and having fun.

Simon: Exactly!

Me: Do you have a favorite piece?

Simon: I really enjoy all of them but I guess it would be the piece behind you. It is actually a replica that was created by a laser because it is a huge piece and it is around 50 feet underground. The hieroglyphics actually spell out a king’s name. It really think it’s the most exciting although the piece here is exciting as well for a couple of reasons, it has never been displayed in public that we know of and a little secret is that on the back of the piece is a person smoking a cigarette. You may not know this but the Maya invented the cigarette. You see a lot of them smoking in different pieces but it seems to be only the common folk and not the kings.


Me: How did you decide this is what you wanted to do? And how old were you when you decided?

Simon: My obsession (as my mother calls it) started with a television show when I was 11. I watched the program with my father and immediately wanted to know and learn more so I read and read and read.

Maya 2012: Lords of Time runs through 1/13/13.

  • Purchase your tickets online or by phone 888.695.0888.
  • General Admission ticket prices are Adult- $22.50, Senior (65+)/Military- $18.50, Students (full-time with ID)/Children (6-17)- $16.50
  • Children 5 and under are FREE.
  • Museum member can receive complimentary tickets call 215-898-5093 or email
  • Hours of Operation – Tuesday 10:00 am  -5:00pm, Wednesday 10:00 am – 8:00pm, and Thursday through Sunday 10:00 am-5:00pm.


In full disclosure: Jersey Family Fun was invited to attend the Press Preview. We were under no obligation to write a review. All opinions are my honest and Randi’s.

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