The world probably isn’t going to end when the Mayan calendar does, on Dec. 21, and the rare Mayan artifacts in a new exhibition at the Inter-American Development Bank definitely aren’t cursed. But the team putting together the show, “Heavenly Jade of the Maya,” which opens Dec. 19, is putting forth a small offering of rum — a toast to the people who once revered these artifacts — just in case.
“It’s for peace of mind,” says Ivan Duque Márquez, chief of IDB’s cultural, solidarity and creativity affairs division.
In another eerie stroke, the artifacts, some of which are on public display for the first time, arrived at IDB on 12/12/12, another inauspicious date rumored to bring the end of the world.
The courier from Guatemala was even nervous about opening the crate, says Debra Corrie, IDB’s art collection coordinator.
So far, so good. Besides, the Maya, who are still a functioning society today, never predicted the end of the world. In fact, their calendar has ended before, and quite uneventfully. Mayan calendars track cycles of time, and when the present era, or Bak’tun, comes to an end, the Maya will welcome the new one with a huge celebration.
Visitors will be able to see some of the Maya’s most precious objects, including carved jade jewelry and mosaics. They considered jade to be more valuable than gold, and nobles flaunted it to show their status. Masks, pottery and figurines — some of which had never left Guatemala and a few that had never been exhibited — also are on display. The artifacts are set up to reflect the position and manner in which they were discovered by archaeologists.
And if the end-of-days crowd is right, how will IDB’s cultural team spend its last day on Earth?
“We’ll be in the exhibition room waiting for people to come see the Mayans,” Márquez says.