Maya History Focus of New Museum

Six years and $15 million in the making, the new museum of Maya history opens in Cancun By: Kelly Rosenfeld
At the new Maya museum in Cancun, visitors can learn more about Maya sites such as Chichen Itza. // (c) 2012 Kenneth Shapiro
At the new Maya museum in Cancun, visitors can learn more about Maya sites such as Chichen Itza. // (c) 2012 Kenneth Shapiro

The Details

Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau

After six years of construction, the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) opened Cancun’s Maya Museum on Nov. 1, just in time to celebrate the end of the Maya calendar and usher in a new era.

The museum features the largest modern structure ever built by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) since the Templo Mayor Museum was built in 1987, and represents an investment of approximately $15 million — 70 percent of which was contributed by the federal government through the INAH. Built on an area of over 55,000 square feet, Cancun’s Maya Museum was designed by Alberto Garcia Lascurain. Its entrance features a fountain with three sculptures built by artist Jan Hendrix — and later donated to the INAH — meant to symbolize the vegetation of the area.

Cancun’s Maya Museum includes 350 archeological artifacts that took 30 years to collect, featuring both relics that have never before been shown to the public and exhibitions that have been previously displayed at other venues. Three exhibition halls of more than 4,400 square feet make up the museum’s venues, including two permanent areas and one temporary venue for national and international exhibitions.

Upon entering the museum, visitors encounter an exhibition of 14,000-year-old skeletal remains that were discovered in Tulum’s underwater caves and offer insight into human development on the American continent.

The first exhibition room is dedicated to the Maya population that once resided on what is now Quintana Roo. It focuses specifically on the remains of La Mujer de las Palmas, or The Woman of the Palms, which are estimated to date back approximately 10,000 years to the Ice Age, and were found in an underground cavern of the same name in 2002. The museum’s second exhibition room was designed to represent the area’s diversity, and features a Maya Room that showcases Maya architecture, art and other artifacts of Mayan daily life. Highlights include sculptures and architectural fragments of Chichen Itza, as well as a collection of ancient engraved bricks from the city of Comalcalco in Tabasco.

Alfonso de Maria y Campos, the director of the INAH, predicts that Cancun’s Maya Museum will become a popular tourist attraction in the area, expecting approximately a million visitors to the new museum per year.

The recently opened San Miguelito archeological site, located next to the Maya Museum, provides added cultural and historical value to the attraction. This location was inhabited more than 800 years ago, until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, and can be viewed in combination with the museum for a single admission price.

Tickets cost around $5 each for access to both the museum and the San Miguelito site, with children under age 13 and seniors over 60 years old eligible to enter for free. Cancun’s Maya Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with special Thursday hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. It is located on Kukulkan Boulevard in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

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