Skip to main content

The McClung Museum will host Maya: Lords of Time, an exhibition investigating the ancient Maya civilization’s fascination with time. The exhibit opens January 23 and runs through May 22.

Maya: Lords of Time will explore the time-ordered universe through the Maya’s intricate calendar systems, and investigate how their history and culture followed a rhythm set by the motion of heavenly bodies. Through touch screen interaction, replicas of Maya monuments, and over twenty Central American artifacts, the exhibition tells the story of how divine kings used their control over the calendar and its grand public rituals to assert their power.

A replica of this stucco Maya relief panel, which was carved around 450 CE in Copan, Honduras, is featured in Maya: Lords of Time. Photo courtesy of the Penn Museum
A replica of this stucco Maya relief panel, which was carved around 450 CE in Copan, Honduras, is featured in Maya: Lords of Time. Photo courtesy of the Penn Museum

For 2,000 years, the Maya flourished in southern Mexico and parts of Central America, their grand cities featuring carved stone temple pyramids, and palaces bearing royal portraits and a complex hieroglyphic script. While these ancient kingdoms were mysteriously abandoned, the Maya did not disappear. The objects in the exhibition demonstrate the artistic and cultural legacy of the Maya, which continues today.

Jade jewelry, colorful pots depicting gods and warriors, and life-size replicas of the palaces and temples of the Classic Maya kingdom of Copan tell the story of the ancient Maya. Most of the archaeological objects were excavated by Penn Museum archaeologists in Guatemala and Honduras.

Maya: Lords of Time offers visitors a rare opportunity to view spectacular examples of Classic Maya art and delve into the Maya people’s extraordinary, layered, and shifting concepts about time,” said Loa Traxler, co-curator of the exhibition.

Visitors will be able to combine Maya glyphs into names and conduct a virtual exploration of a Maya archaeological site. They will also “meet” experts through video interviews with a Maya archaeologist and a present-day Maya tour guide, who shares the contemporary concerns of the Maya.

Exhibition programming will feature Stroller Tours on the Mayan calendar and folktales at 10:00 a.m. on March 7 and April 18 and a Maya Festival featuring local Maya craftspeople and musicians from 1:00–4:00 p.m. April 9.

Ted Fischer, Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, will discuss, “The Once and Future Maya: Cultural Revival and Resurgence in the Modern World,” February 25 at 5:15 p.m. and archaeologist James J. Aimers of State University of New York at Geneseo will give a lecture about the Maya collapse on April 5 at 7:30 p.m.

The exhibition is organized by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in partnership with the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, and curated by Loa Traxler, Director of Museum Studies at the University of New Mexico who also excavated at the site of Copan from 1989 to 2003 with the Penn Museum. Simon Martin, Associate Curator of the Penn Museum’s American Section and a leading Maya epigrapher, is co-curator of the exhibition.

Maya: Lords of Time is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and lead support from The Annenberg Foundation and the Selz Foundation.

The exhibition is presented at the McClung Museum by Home Federal Bank, Ann and Steve Bailey, the William B. Stokely Jr. Foundation, UT Ready for the World, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee, and HoLa Hora Latina. Additional support is provided by Knox County, the City of Knoxville, and the Arts and Heritage Fund.

The McClung Museum is located at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and the museum’s hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Groups may schedule tours by calling 865-974-2144 or emailing Free two-hour museum parking passes are available from the parking information building at the entrance to Circle Park Drive on weekdays by request. Free parking is available on Circle Park Drive on a first-come, first-served basis on weekends. Free public transportation to the museum is also available via the Knoxville Trolley Vol Line.


Debbie Woodiel (865-974-2144,

Catherine Shteynberg (865-974-6921,