Mayan exhibit makes waves at McClung

KNOXVILLE – On Sunday afternoon, nine Honors Program students, lead by Dr. Gerald Mattingly, took an off campus excursion to the the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture to explore their new exhibit.

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Replica of a Motmot marker, ca. 435-445 CE, depicting first two kings of Copan, Honduras.

The museum, part of a coalition of university museums, features a new, major exhibit every semester. This spring it is entitled Maya: Lords of Time, focusing on the famous Mayan calendar.

The museum describes in their introduction how the Mayan exhibit “investigates how their history and culture followed a rhythm set by the motion of heavenly bodies.”

The exhibit includes Central American artifacts, full scale replicas of Mayan monuments, and many interactive elements including a dig in the ruins of Copan and a deconstruction of the Mayan calendar glyphs, with which visitors can explore how the calendar works and learn how to read it.

Elsewhere in the museum, the permanent Egyptian exhibit includes the inner coffin of an Egyptian priestess, lent to the McClung by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a model of the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak (c. 1320-1085 BC), the largest religious building ever made.

The museum also contains a walkthrough depicting the lives of Native Americans from the Tennessee area, which includes a 33 foot poplar log found floating along the Tennessee river in 1797.

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Limestone head carving of a deity, 750 CE, Copan, Honduras.

There is a smaller exhibit on the geological history of Tennessee and finally an exhibit which focuses on Buddhist and Daoist art, including tapestries, sculptures, clothing and more. This exhibit also includes various glassworks and odd items from around the world, such as a Scrimshaw from 19th century Massachusetts and a 1919 Tiffany and Co. gold evening bag decorated with sapphires. 

Students especially interested in Buddhist, Daoist, Egyptian, or Mayan history should take time to visit the diverse McClung museum this semester.

Admission to the museum is free. Maya: Lords of Time will be open until May 22.

From June 4 through August 28, the McClung museum will hold a new exhibit that gives a modern take on paleontology.

Coming in the fall, from September 7 through January 8, 2017, the museum will debut an exhibit exploring the archaeology and heritage of Knoxville in honor of the city’s 225th anniversary.

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