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Mayan Art Exhibit - Fiery Pool - The Maya and the Mythic Sea

Updated on March 15, 2014

An amazing Mayan Exhibit!

This Exhibit, titled "Fiery Pool, The Maya and the Mythic Sea," is just wonderful. It is very timely as well, with all the talk about The Mayan Calendar and everything that goes with that. With 2012 right around the corner, and the current world events, many people are saying that the coincidence is rather uncanny. That aside, there is no denying the Maya were an amazing people. Their knowledge of things that were beyond their time are still mind boggling.

I happened to hear about this exhibit by accident really. In researching another orchid show exhibit with a Mayan Inspired Theme, I came across a simple comment online. It was simply, "This is a great idea and surely just a coincidence that it falls during the same time as the Mayan Art Exhibit at the museum (all in the same town). If you knew how much I love Mayan History and their art, you can only begin to understand how excited I was to find out there really was an exhibit, and it had just begun.

The title alone is exciting, "Fiery Pool, the Maya and the Mythic Sea?" I could only imagine what it had in store.

About Items in the Exhibit, and Photography is Restricted

Generally speaking, I love to share my photos in my hubs and blogs. I was so disappointed to find out there was no photography in the show at all! It has to do with copyright images, and the owners, etc. I told myself that it is a great thing the owners of these amazing pieces, are trying to get them out into the public as much as they are.

I will share one picture, that is a picture of one of the pieces in the exhibit. Other than that, I am limited to sharing just a very few pieces the museum has on display currently showing some Mesoamerican History. That is something at least. I do want to list some of the cool items I saw however. I did opt to take the audio tour as well, which teaches a lot. It came highly recommended to me, and I was so glad I took it. Below, I share just some highlights of the Fiery Pool Exhibit. There are many many more. I ran out of room writing things down, there were just too many.

Ancient Art and Archaeology and Stories, Etc.

**Here are some of the Items that I have to mention that were included in the Exhibit.  You can get an idea of what was included and the dates.

Head of a Deity - Made of Jadeite - 550-650.  This was simply beautiful in color and form.  They said the color reminded the Maya of the Sea, and it is the crown work of Belize.  Altun Ha.

Lidded Vessel with the Sun God Paddling Across.  Dated 200 - 450, from Mexico or Guatemala

Vase with the Maize God Riding in a Canoe, dated c. 600.

Chocolate Frothing Pot in the shape of a shell.  Dated 400 - 500.  This had an interesting story.  Chocolate is very important to the Maya, and this pot was an example of how in one hole they could blow air into the container to cause it to froth up.  They would drink out of the more open end, and enjoy the aroma and froth and the hot chocolate all at the same time.  It was quite an experience.  Like almost all the other pieces I mention here, the decoration on this was simply amazing, and told a story of its own.  Most all pieces had something to do with the sea or water somehow. 

Ear Spools.  These were made of gold, turquoise, and obsidian around 1300 - 1500.  They were simply stunning, and very interesting.  Some of the items came from afar, as all materials were not easily accessible or close to them. 

Cache Vessel with Directional Shells and Jades.  This was made around 500 - 600 and was made of ceramic, jade and shell.  Just an amazing piece. 

Disk with a great Naval Battle.  Dates anywhere from 800 - 900 and is from Chichen Itza, Mexico. 

Three Face Ornaments of Cenote of Sacrifice.  From Chichen Itza Mexico, dating 800 - 900.  Quetzalcoatl.

Conch Trumpet with Floating Ancestors.  Dating anywhere from 300 - 500.  The amazing designs/art were engraved right onto the shells surface.  To make these engravings stand out, they used dye that was probably something like cinnabar.  They used it later on to keep the etchings clear to them.  Rubbing it into the recessed parts allowed for the eye to catch all there was to see.  Simply amazing.

Plate with the Maize God Dancing Above Water.  Dating 700 - 800. 

Incense Burner with a Deity with Aquatic Elements.  700 - 800 from Palenque Mexico.  They said there were many of these incense burners, and the way the gods were engraved on them, along with the massive amount of smoke involved in the incense burning, it would have been quite a scary or intimidating sight.  These were no small incense burners, but rather large.  There were many symbols of the sea or water included.  One example was a sharks tooth coming out of the god's mouth.  Our word shark, comes from the Mayan word for shark, which is pronounced Shook.  I thought that was interesting. 

Figurine of the Jaguar god of the underworld Riding a Crocodile.  From Jaina Island, Mexico, 700 - 800. 

A note about Jaina Island - This island was a place steeped in much superstition and held a lot of meaning to the Maya people.  When the sun was setting, it seemed to set right onto or into this Island, called Jaina Island.  They believed it was the last stop of the sun before it entered into the underworld, and it would travel around down in the underworld until it was reborn the next day at sunrise.  Because of this, Jaina Island was known to be a place for many burials of many Mayan people.  Others, insist it was a bustling metropolis, in its day.  Regardless, it held a lot of importance to the people. 

Lintel with a Bloodletting Rite.  This is one of the most amazing pieces of the collection, if not the most amazing piece.  It shows how the process went for letting of blood, could inspire some interaction with the god or gods.  They mentioned that there may be some hallucinogenic drugs taken before the ceremony, so the person doing the blood letting could actually see the god emerge out of the smoke.  The smoke was created by the burning of the blood that was spilt... In this case, the person didn't die, like you hear of many of the sacrifices.  They just let out some blood, then burned it in such a way that it created smoke.  The smoke gave life to the god so it could be seen, then included many different things, like serpents, and much more. 

The Mythic Sea

One of the most interesting things I learned from this exhibit, was how critically important things of the Sea, had to do with everything the Maya believed in.  Even for those Maya that lived far inland, far from the Sea, so to speak, had a lot of influence from the Sea.  They are surrounded on all sides, North, South, East and West with some form of water or another.  The Gulf of Mexico, The Caribbean, The Pacific, and more.  They believed it was the source of life.

Many water animals were part of their beliefs as well.  Turtles had great importance, as do water fowl, fish, and much more.  Things like the Spondylus Shell carried incredible weight with the Maya.  You could find the highest ranking Mayans, the royalty decorated with such things.  There is so much imagery from Lobsters, to many shells, to droplets of water, to shrimp, and all kinds of water animals. 

One highlight is a video talking about how the glyphs and writings of the Mayans were and are translated.  It explains in detail, how they can tell a story, and you read such glyphs. 

Its an overwhelming feeling, but in a good way to truly try to understand the Mayan culture, to see their struggles and beliefs.  Its an awesome history, that can hardly begin to be touched on really.  Many of the items I observed, and learned about weren't even available until very recent years.  This is how much they are only still beginning to discover. 

I am thankful to the Maya for those that share what is left of them so that we can learn from them.  This is written to just share a little of what I experienced at this amazing exhibit.  There is so much more.  As I can find pictures, I will share those as well.  Go to see it if you can, you will not regret it.  It goes on until May 2011.  It is free on Fridays, and the whole St. Louis Museum is always free anyway.  This, being an extra special exhibit costs 8.00.  Fridays are free to all though, so that is a good day to go. 

Thank you to the people and families that gave so much, and to the researchers and archaeologists and what they share with us. 

Mayan Culture

show route and directions
A markerMesoamerica Mexico -
Mesoamérica, Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Mexico
get directions

B markerJaina Island -
Jaina Island, Campeche, Mexico
get directions

C markerTulum -
Tulum, Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico
get directions

Mayan Exhibit - Poll

Have you ever been to a Mayan Exhibit of any kind?

See results

St. Louis Art Museum - Where this Mayan Art Exhibit Was Located

A markerOne Fine Arts Drive, St. Louis, Missouri -
1 Fine Arts Dr, St Louis, MO 63110, USA
get directions


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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Clare, I also find those things fascinating! I am so glad you stopped by and left a comment. I think they Mayans were pretty incredible too, as the more I learn the more interesting it becomes.

    • Clare-Louise profile image

      Clare-Louise 7 years ago from Birmingham UK

      Hi Oceansnsunsets, I also find ancient cultures and their art fascinating. Thanks for sharing this article about the incredible Mayans and I look forward to reading more of your writing!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thanks Joe, it was just simply amazing. I hope to go back as well, it goes through some of May 2011.

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      joe 7 years ago

      Sounds very interesting

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Austinstar, thank you very much! I saw that website, and was so grateful for the photos they share of a lot of the pieces in the exhibit. I was so disappointed I couldn't take pictures, but it helps they are out there and shared by those that could take the pictures. Appreciate the visit!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Mayan Guy, thank you very much!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Great hub about your museum visit! This exhibit was at the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth TX and you can see some of the photos here -

      Definitely worth seeing!

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      mayan guy 7 years ago

      Great article