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Culture Clash: The Maya Culture and “Doomsday” in 2012 plus Gems of the Medici [11/26/2012]


BY Alex Wang [ November 25, 2012 at 15:25:09 ]

HOUSTON—What will happen on December 21, 2012? In short, a Maya calendar cycle will end—but what exactly does this mean? Maya 2012: Prophecy Becomes History explores the real story of the Maya and examines their unique understanding of time as derived from their detailed astronomical observations and complex mathematical calculations. Did Maya astronomers and timekeepers really believe the world would end?

Catch the real story of the Maya culture before the predicted “doomsday date” beginning Oct. 26, when the Houston Museum of Natural Science opens this special exhibition.

The Maya civilization was one of the longest-lived in the Americas. A Stone Age culture, the ancient Maya developed the most advanced writing system in the New World and domesticated plants and used many products we are still familiar with today, like tobacco and rubber. Wherever they lived, the Maya also left behind monumental architecture, beautiful pottery, and eccentric flint objects. However, it is in measuring time that they truly excelled—and they did it so accurately that the Maya have left us in awe, even by today’s standards.

Maya calendrics are at the heart of the exhibition, as we count down to the end of an incredibly long Maya calendrical cycle. The show presents the story of the real Maya, which spans over three millennia. Topics include the evolution of kingship and the development of writing and math, astronomy and timekeeping. Information on the latest discoveries, including the uncovering of a second inscription marking the December 21, 2012 date, is presented.

As we investigate humanity’s alleged demise, we celebrate some of its greatest artistic achievements with Gems of the Medici, also opening Oct. 26.

Gems of the Medici

Gems of the Medici is a premiere exhibition that delves into the history of Florence, Italy’s renowned Medici family. In the mid-1400s, many celebrated artists, goldsmiths, silversmiths and engravers were attracted by the abundance of wealth in the city of Florence, but the most important factor in this gathering of talent was the presence and patronage of the Medici family.

For almost 300 years, generation after generation of Medici dominated city affairs and steered the course of art history. It was the Medici family who funded the workshops of these artists and artisans, and who commissioned and collected their masterpieces of art and antiquity. From the founding father to the last Grand Duke, the immense power and wealth of this great dynasty was invested in its legendary collections, of which the collection renowned as the Gems of the Medici is perhaps the finest in the world.

Gems of the Medici, a world-premiere exhibition, highlights some of the oldest and most unique pieces of the Medici collections, including antiquities dating from the 1st Century BCE as well as a cornelian which was part of the Seal of Nero.

Both Maya 2012 and Gems of the Medici will be on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science from October 26, 2012 through March 31, 2013. Entrance into both special exhibitions is included with a single ticket, and also includes admission to the Museum’s permanent exhibition halls. For pricing and more information, visit the museum’s web site at www.hmns.org.

Maya 2012 was organized by the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, Guatemala City, Guatemala. It is generously sponsored by HMW Entertainment and The Kislak Family Foundation. Additional support provided by The Wortham Foundation, Inc.

Gems of the Medici was organized by Contemporanea Progetti, Florence, Italy in collaboration with Museo degli Argenti, Palazzo Pitti and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Firenze. Support provided by The Wortham Foundation, Inc.


The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most-heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, including the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Houston Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.

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