Maya 2012 - From Copan to Penn

Posts tagged Cultural Heritage

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Emily: The Ruins

Yesterday we spent the day exploring the ruins of Copan and the Museum of Sculpture. The experience was particularly rewarding because Loa Traxler, the curator of the exhibition, provided us with information about the monuments’ iconography, restorations, and history. It became clear that it was incredibly difficult for me to know exactly what I was looking at because throughout the day Loa provided us with insights that were far from apparent and radically shifted the way I would have experienced the acropolis otherwise.

A number of the temples had significant restorations that one might mistake for their withstanding time. In contrast, there were also some mounds of stones that looked like refuse piles, though they were actually untouched remains. It was the first time I was challenged to visualize a grand structure based solely upon its fallen walls. I was engaged in a lively inner monologue about whether I was more affected by restored structures that somewhat resembled their original forms or remains that attested truthfully to their age, weathering, and collapse.

The ball court was particularly and inexplicably monumental. It was grand yet unassuming with two parallel slopes, simple sculptures, and remnants of markers used in the games themselves. I try to make sense of civilization long past while confronting the severe limitations of such a feat. The ball court and the ruins in general were quite thought-provoking and completely overwhelming.  The importance and visibility of the structures persisted in the basic forms and scale.

Loa took us through the tunnels under the acropolis and explained how structures from earlier rulers had been covered up and used as a foundation for new buildings. From the exterior there was no indication that these earlier structures existed, which made seeing hints of them along the path rather surprising. It was a more-than-meets-the-eye experience that was wonderful in its frustrating and baffling complexity.

Filed under Archeology Cultural Heritage Emily Honduras Maya Copan

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Miranda: Introduction

Greetings from Copan!

My name is Miranda Saylor and I am a junior studying Art History and History. I am from Montclair, New Jersey. I transferred from Barnard College this year, and one of my reasons for coming to University of Pennsylvania was because of the Penn Museum. When applying to transfer, I was aware the museum’s impressive Mesoamerican Gallery and was very interested in studying the collection. In addition to my major, I love studying history, Spanish, and Latin America in general. I initially applied to be a part of the Maya 2012 exhibition team because it was a unique opportunity that combined all of these interests. Like Emily, I am also in Honduras right now, assisting with the documentation of the objects that will be transported to Philadelphia. Today, Dr. Loa Traxler, the curator of the exhibition, gave us a wonderful tour of the ruins, which was a great introduction to the site.  

In addition to our involvement here in Copan, I am the coordinator of our blog. “Maya 2012 – From Copan to Penn” is meant to record the exhibition’s development, but from the unique insider perspective of students working together as a team as well as independently on our individual areas of study. I am also working on the outreach initiative for the exhibition as part of the Maya 2012 Community Advisory Board Committee. The final aspect of my independent study is the research component. Leading up to this trip, I have been reading about Maya civilization in present day Latin America. I hope to incorporate this research with content specific to this exhibition, whether that be ceramics or  portrayals of kings and gods has yet to be decided. So far, working with this exhibition team has been a fantastic experience, and I am excited to see what the rest of this week has in store for us.

Filed under Copán Cultural Heritage Honduras Maya Museums Miranda

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Emily: Introduction

My name is Emily Kim and I am a junior at Penn, double majoring in Art History and Economics. I am originally from Farmington, Connecticut, but I currently live in Boston and Manhattan. I joined this project because it combines my interests in art, culture, and Latin America. I believe that this exhibition on the Maya will bring attention and interest to art forms and cultures about which many people, including myself, know very little.

I am excited and eager to contribute to the project while learning a great deal about museums and Maya civilization. I am currently in Copan to help with the packing of objects that will be in the exhibition. We will primarily assist with the documentation and photography of the objects. This week will be a crash course in the mechanics of an exhibition and addressing issues of cultural heritage.

Additionally, I am researching a group of masks in the exhibition that are used in “The Dance of the Conquest.” The dance itself is quite fascinating, and it chronicles the confrontation between the Ki’che’ Maya and the Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and his troops in the 1520’s. It is a long and elaborate performance that treads the line between scripted drama and dance. “The Dance of the Conquest” also combines Pre-Columbian traditions with colonial and modern elements. It is largely considered to be the national dance of Guatemala, and it is still performed today at local fairs. It is wonderful to be able to get hands-on experience with an amazing set of objects.

Filed under Cultural Heritage Emily Honduras Maya Museums Copan