A Maya Artifacts Museum Exchange Program and Documentary

      In the Spring of 2004, Emilio Colmenares, founder of the Petén Maya Museum of La Isla Santa Barbara, Petén, Guatemala, asked Kenneth Koym to be the Museum's United States legal representative in hopes it may exchange or lease Maya artifacts to Museums outside Guatemala. We worked out this role to further behavioral science, to benefit the indigenous people and render a legal exchange of artifacts found in Guatemala with museums in other countries.

    Below note how the Maya depicted status and the immense patience show by such chieftains. The elite and powerful Maya set themselves apart wearing jade inlays in their teeth. Only dignitaries could afford this status. Great precision was required to drill the holes and
then to adhere the inlays in place.  Have compassion for those who endured this ritual, and marvel at the fine workmanship and the skill the dentist must have had to gain the lasting fit you see.

Maya Emperor’s Teeth With Jade Implants – Estimated death: 557 A.E. Courtesy of the Museo Santa Barbara

These rare teeth are shown courtesy of Emilio Colmenares, Curator of the Maya Museum headquartered in La Isla de Santa Barbara, Petén, Guatemala. We regret it is not possible to show you the Emperor's skull, skeleton and all his fine teeth. But you appreciate teeth would be unlikely to decompose after 1,300 years as compared to the skin or skull. So, please don't ask the Curator or his Exchange Officer to give you the name of a Maya Indian dentist who can do a jade inlay for you.  Though 5.8 million Maya reside in Guatemala, the question is not a matter of, "what is the fee?" With so many Maya available, we could ask for someone to do the inlays. But do you have the many months that opening a hole with a stick normally takes?

Having sat in a dental chair over three months in Taiwan for just one tooth, I’m sure great patience and endurance was required by those who had these jade inlays. Imagine doing it without today’s pain killers. To have had this done, the recipient had to be quite eager to be set apart from others.

Literally man months are required to solely to excavate, much less to locate, archive, register and protect such treasures. Our Museum has an immense number of holdings that have been seen by only a few handfuls of people but that could change if a documentary is made and distributed to large Museums having the capacity to more widely expose the artifacts.




Our Petén based Maya Museum is located just 28 miles from Tikal, the widely sought after Maya Ruins in Northwest Guatemala. About 58 miles to the East and just over the Belize border from Tikal one may visit the Xunantunich Maya Ruin, pictured below as show on the map to the right. Xunantunich means "stone woman" in the Maya code.

Anthropologist Shea[1] (2001) says the Maya first bore the onslaught of the Spaniards in the 1520s. The Maya held Flores, Petén longer than any other part of Guatemala. In the Petén jungles some families may never have given up control until after the 36 year Civil War began about 1955.

Xunantunich as viewed from Benque Viejo and Soccutz, Belize.Xunantunich is found in Western Belize a few feet from the Guatemala border.

[1] Shea, M. E. Culture and customs of Guatemala, Westpoint, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2001, p. 20.

If you wish to display artifacts from the Peten Museum or to work with or support our efforts to produce a documentary about the exchange of Mayan artifacts, please initiate a lease contract by first providing us your contact data, then click submit so you write a message to that affect.

Others can earn an American International University travel study certificate; all participants learn about Maya Ruins of Peten, Guatemala and the ancient and modern Maya who inhabit Northern Guatemala. We visit ruins and villages and combine evening lectures, giving all present a well-rounded perspective on the region's history and culture. Each week we discuss Maya art, architecture, sciences, and religious practices. Special guests who select a pre-planned trip, may spend a week or more learning one of the twenty three Maya dialects used in Guatemala. To study Maya click here.

From time to time specially arranged activities, or the visit to the Museum on Santa Barbara Island, group participants may ask to go our home base on the beautiful Lake Peten. 

Substitute collaborators are often needed to continue activities mentioned above.

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