Written by Dr. Mike Reed
As spectacular discoveries are unearthed at numerous jungle-shrouded archaeological sites of the Maya civilization, increasing numbers of foreign visitors are flocking to the tropical lowlands of Guatemala to see some of the greatest Maya cities for themselves. With so many natural and cultural wonders to experience, often overlooked is the one place in Guatemala where many of the greatest treasures of the Maya can be admired: The Museum of Archaeology in Guatemala City.
Located in one of the most convenient parts of the city, in Parque Aurora, close to hotels and the airport in zone 13, the Museum of Archaeology offers one of the finest collections of carved stone monuments and richly painted ceramics from some of the most important and powerful cities of the ancient Maya.
The museum is housed in an elegant older structure set around an open-air patio filled with tropical plants and a colonial fountain. Numerous tall ancient stelae, altars and panels limestone monuments carved with the likenesses of some of the greatest historical Maya rulers stand against the walls of the walkway surrounding the patio. The hieroglyphic writing on each identify these rulers and provide detailed information on historical events and the cities and individuals who shaped the story of the rise and collapse of the ancient kingdoms of the Maya.
The large exhibit halls that circle the central patio of the museum are neatly arranged to tell the story of the ancient Maya from the earliest hunters through the emergence of small agricultural communities, the development of complex societies, the growth and collapse of the kingdoms of the Maya during the classic period – the apogee of the civilization. The artifacts on display and the hieroglyphic inscriptions they contain reveal a history of the Maya with as much drama and intrigue as any of the world’s great civilizations.
The story of the Maya throughout each period of its development is provided for visitors in both Spanish and English on wall plaques and videos, dioramas, models of several important cities (like Tikal) and the artifacts themselves which are displayed in the open when large and in glass cases for smaller and delicate items. Everything on display are among the most important finds and finest examples of ancient Maya art. Also, on display in one hall of the museum are examples of the colorful traditional costumes that continue being worn in traditional Maya communities throughout Guatemala.
Special exhibitions of some of the most important and spectacular discoveries take place at the Archaeology Museum when they are announced to the world by archaeological teams. These artifacts are prominently exhibited for a period for the public and visitors to admire at no extra cost beyond the admission fee.
Guatemala’s major archaeology museum is compact due to the space limitations of the building, however the curators managed to display many of the finest and most recognizable works of art in an organized and pleasing way. The Archaeology Museum should not be missed by anyone interested in the ancient Maya civilization.
Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia
Location: 6ª. Calle y 7ª. Avenida, Finca la Aurora, Zona 13
Business hours: Abierto: From Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 a 16:00 hrs. Saturday and Sunday from
9:00 to 12:00 and from 13:30 to 16:00 horas.
Closed: on Monday and Christmas: 24-25 de diciembre. 31 of December and 1st. of January.
Local visitors: Q. 5.00
Foreign visitors: Q. 60.00