Exhibition of Recently Unearthed Maya Art at San Antonio Museum of Art

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San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) has just opened a new exhibition of recently excavated Maya art. Nature, Power, and Maya Royals features 34 painted ceramic vessels, worked shell pendants, earrings, and bracelets unearthed by University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) researchers at two royal burial sites at the ancient city of Buenavista del Cayo, Belize. The exhibit is the culmination of a close collaboration between the museum, UTSA, and the Belize Institute of Archaeology.

“The objects in the exhibition are priceless to us and to the government of Belize for what they tell us about the ancient Maya,” said excavation leader Jason Yaeger, a Professor of Anthropology and Senior Associate Dean at UTSA. “This show presents a wonderful opportunity to grow connections with institutions across San Antonio and Belize.” 

The works on view in Nature, Power, and Maya Royals were found during digs in 2014 and 2019, and this is the first time they’re presented for public viewing. They date to 450-800 CE during the Classic Period of Maya civilization, a period of peak artistic production and royal power. Jaguars, symbolizing the king, appear in some of the finely detailed, intact painted ceramics on view in the exhibition.

Such objects are rare find. Much of the Maya area has been picked over by looters, as had Buenavista del Cayo — luckily, a previous looting trench missed one of the royal burials by inches, leaving it for the UTSA team to find.

“The recovery of the objects such as these from known, well documented locations provides essential information for interpreting similar Maya art held by museums,” said Bernadette Cap, a postdoctoral fellow at SAMA and curator of the exhibition.  

Nature, Power, and Maya Royals: Recent Discoveries from the Site of Buenavista del Cayo, Belize also includes photos taken during the excavations in Belize. It will remain on view at SAMA’s Golden Gallery through February 27, 2022.

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