Museum of Mesoamerican History
A Unique Experience in Incan, Aztec, and Mayan History
The museum is made possible through grants from the Argentinian, Peruvian, Chilean, and Mexican governments, as well as small private donations and a $2.5 million anonymous endowment.
The floor of the exhibit is laid out with a topographical map of the extent of the Maya empire, allowing a truly interactive experience - there are even areas of microclimate within the exhibit that allow you to experience the varied jungle/forest temperatures that the Maya felt!
See a breakdown of the Mayan city-states and learn about several prominent Mayan god-kings.
Examples of the goods traded by Mayan city-states are available to touch and use, and the food products of Mayan agriculture are served at the Mayan cafe.
The outer walls of the exhibit are devoted to a bright and vivid depiction of the many Mayan gods, allowing visitors to learn about the features of each and what importance the Mayans placed on them.
Role-playing games occur every hour and a half - visitors are assigned the role of either a noble, skilled worker, peasant, or even a king to learn about the daily lives of each.
Although artifacts relaying these achievements are laid out throughout, the best way to learn about the advanced qualities of the Maya is to attend the documentary film on Mayan math and astronomy - anyone can appreciate the beauty of their advanced calculations, even if you aren't a "math person"!
Decline and Impact
Unfortunately, the Mayan civilization came to an end in a mysterious fall. Explore the various theories explaining its demise, from war to disease to over-farming.
Just like in the Maya Exhibit, the floor of the exhibit is laid out with a topographical map and microclimate areas.
A devoted area to the glory of Aztec emperors conveys the importance they had in the empire. Additionally, learn about the tribute system and the highly planned and developed cities with a scale model recreation of Tenochtitlan.
Although this exhibit also describes the many gods of the Aztecs, the focus is on their sun god. Learn about the rituals practiced to keep the god and the sun strong, including the fascinating and shocking story of their extensive human sacrifice.
Role-playing games occur every hour and a half in this exhibit as well, but here, visitors are also given the option of playing a slave and learning about the uncertain future of enslaved Aztecs. However, less frightening roles are also offered to learn about the broad influence of Aztecs over the area they conquered.
An interactive "city" experience exists in the same auditorium where you could learn about Maya mathematics - 3D glasses take you on a simulated tour of their cities, where you can experience the intricate architecture as recreated by our team of graphics experts and historians.
Decline and Impact
Montezuma II fated the Aztecs to decline with his harsh demands, and the conquistadors exacerbated this process. However, the Aztecs had a lasting impact and you can learn about their descendants in society today.
Our location in the Andes makes it possible to simply look out the glass windows of the Inca hall to take in the beauty of the land the Inca ruled. Paths outside create a more hands-on experience for the adventurous.
The bureaucratic system of the Inca was incredibly effective and advanced. The map present in all other halls serves a different role here - instead of topographical, it divides the land into the historical regions of the Inca.
Fewer gods than the Aztec or the Maya are described in more detail in a special section of the exhibit. The sun god, particularly, is noted in the "society" sections:
The king was said to be the descendant of the sun god, and revered greatly. Below him were the bureaucratic regions mentioned previously but also a complicated system of extended family. The role-playing games in this section are the most dynamic and informative: visitors are divided into ayllu, or family units, and can learn about the near-socialist society of the Inca as well as complete actual public works projects about the museum.
The projects created by visitors serve as an excellent examples of the Incan achievements themselves. Quipu are kept to tally the number of visitors to our museum, a living example of the Incan record-keeping system, and small roads show off the infrastructure of the Inca (on a much smaller scale).
Decline and Impact
Those interested in military history will probably be most interested in the Inca hall out of our three halls - it details the civil war that tore apart this great civilization and the impact of conquistadors on the war.