Artful Musing

THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: You won’t find this on the beach in Cancun

By Paul Gessell

Head of man with a headdress. This modeled head may depict Kan B’alam II, one of Palenque’s rulers during the late 7th century CE. Late Classic Period (600-900 CE). Photo ©CONACULTA.-INAH.-MEX. Jorge Vertiz 2011.

Every day by 11 a.m., the parking lot at the magnificent Mayan archeological site at Chichen Itza, Mexico, is filled with busloads of tourists, many of them Canadian, from the rows of highrise hotels at the Yucatan beach resorts of Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

That huge wave of sunburned humanity that descends every day at Chichen Itza and other Mayan sites, such as Palanque and Tulum, are so huge and overwhelming that it becomes difficult to enjoy the 1,500-year-old pyramids, temples, ball courts, and other structures that should leave you in awe. But it is difficult to be awed when camera-clicking tourists speaking a dozen languages keep stepping on your toes and blocking your camera angles.

The enjoyment of these archeological sites is further diminished by the endless souvenir stands scattered throughout the ruins selling T-shirts, onyx chess sets, and “genuine” Mayan artifacts.

Strangely, many of Mexico’s Mayan sites lack adjoining museums of any note to display the sculptures, pottery, jewellery, and other artifacts that have been found at these sites. Those are usually stored in museums in faraway Mexico City or other urban centres.

So, if you have visited these Mayan sites and left disappointed, there is a solution right at home. The Canadian Museum of Civilization has just opened an exhibition titled Maya: Secrets of Their Ancient World. Frankly, your will see more artifacts up close at the museum than you will encounter at the actual archeological sites, although Civilization can not boast a steep pyramid to climb, a ball court to test your athleticism, or “genuine” Mayan souvenirs made in China. (more…)