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24these rituals involved blood-letting, a form of auto-sacrifice tobetter commune with ancestors. Among the objects displayed inthis section are large, striking incense burners, or censers, adornedwith representations of ancestral and divine persons.Writing and Timekeepingillustrates that, while the Maya did notinvent writing or the calendar, they advanced these disciplines tohigh levels of sophistication. Most inscriptions on objects andmonuments glorified rulers, commemorating significant events intheir lives. A video highlights that nearly 80 percent of the Maya'sapproximately 900 known signs have been deciphered. Thissection includes a spotlight on the Maya calendar and theenduring 2012 end of days legend.Courtly Lifecontinues to explore the complex royal lifestyle of theClassic Maya elite. The rituals of courtly life are vividly depictedin scenes painted on ceramics, providing a rich source ofinformation on Maya daily life. A beautifully decorated bowl,dated to 600 - 900 AD, portrays a person drinking at a banquet.Feasts to celebrate births, marriages, deaths, harvests, anddiplomatic alliances, showcased their organizers' powers. Thissection demonstrates the Maya rulers' constant engaging in ritualsto justify their dominant roles in society and establish theirrelationships with gods and ancestors. Imposing limestone panels,dated to 600 - 900 AD, clearly illustrate these associations,combining the past and present, the dead and living, and thenatural and supernatural.In Death and Burial, a tomb-like atmosphere pervades. Thissection highlights the mid-20th century revelation that many Mayapyramid-temples were actually tombs. As in many ancient cultures,Maya elite were buried with material goods meant as offerings toassist them on their journey into the afterlife. Discovered in theseroyal burials, these extraordinary artifacts underscore the Mayabelief that, for the chosen few, death initiated a new phase ofexistence. Section highlights include a funerary mask, made ofjade, shell, and obsidian, depicting a Palenque queen.In Collapse and Survival, a broken altar and a shatteredhieroglyphic panel are both poignant reminders of the once-flourishing culture. A limestone stela from Toniná displays thelast-known Long Count date. By the end of the ninth century,many Maya cities were in rapid decline and the tradition of LongCount dating abruptly stopped. This stela's eroded front depictsthe city's last ruler, while the glyphs on its back read January 15, 909 AD. Soon after, Toniná's royal dynasty fell,andits palaces and temples were abandoned. Other objectsshowcased include a stunning pedestal jar, unearthed in 1974 byROM curator David Pendergast at the site of Lamanai, Belize. Theobject is adorned by an effigy combining features of K'awiil, theGod of Royalty, and Chaahk, the Rain God. Excavated from a pitassociated with a man's burial, this jar, found in pieces, has beenmeticulously restored by museum conservators.The exhibition concludes with a positivemessage: while the Spanish Conquesthad a shattering impact on the Maya,the culture has managed to preservetheir language, land, and culture. Today,modern Maya descendants numberapproximately ten million, and arefound living in present-day Mexico,Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala andHonduras. The Maya, once again, are avigorous culture, inspired by theirancestors' great achievements.MAYA: SECRETS OF THEIR ANCIENT WORLDIS ON DISPLAY AT THEROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM THROUGH APRIL 9, 2012. FOR MOREINFORMATION, VISIT WWW.ROM.ON.CA/MAYATop: Vista of Palace. Archaeological Site of Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico. Late Classic Period600-800 AD. Photo by Justin Jennings, 2011Middle: ROM exhibition curator Dr. Justin Jennings and ROM crew filming on location in thepyramid of the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque. Photo © Royal Ontario Museum, 2011Bottom: Monument of a king. 2.34 m x 73.7 cm Stone. Late Classic Period (600-900 AD).Toniná, Chiapas, Mexico. Museo de Sitio Toniná. Photo © CONACULTA-INAH, Jorge Vertiz