Hero Twins at Maya World Museum

Within the El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida that recently opened in 2012, there is an extensive exhibit of local Maya history and anthropology. Not only does the outer architecture symbolize Ceiba, the sacred tree within the cosmo vision of the Maya culture, there are many artifacts that can be found internally that also play huge roles in explaining and defining the Maya cosmo vision beliefs and culture.

This hand-crafted bowl, made with classic clay and wood was used to tell a story in the Mayan late classical period. These stories were told through painted bowls due to the Mayans having no specific language or written books. Many stories were said to have come from the Maya creation myth as depicted in The Popol Vuh (Book of Council). The Popol Vuh laid the foundation of the pre conquest narrative dating all the way back to the post classic period (CE 1000-1500). Painted are two twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, also known as “Jaguar-deer and Hunter” that freed the world from forces of darkness and secured the material for the final creation of humanity. This is where the divine twins initiate a struggle against the Lords and the Underworld. This artifact relates to the Mayan Ballcourts in the way that the courts represent a passage way to the underworld.

The summarized story in the Popol Vuh states that the father and uncle of the two twins go to the underworld to play the God’s (Lords of Death) in a Maya ball game and lose. Therefore, they are embarrassed of their defeat. The father’s head was cut off for losing and placed on a tree permanently. A curious goddess, who was told not to stray to this side of the underworld but did anyways and got into some trouble for doing so. The father’s head, on the tree, spit into the goddess’s hand, and she became pregnant. She was now carrying the two twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. She was banished from Xibalba, the Mayan underworld.

As the twins are born and grow up on Earth, they betray their grandmother and mother after finding out who their father is and where he is. They meet a rat that tells them that their father is a ball player in the underworld. The twins try to avenge their father, so they go to the underworld to play the ballgame. In the world of Xibalba, they play many tricks on the God’s in which they believe that these two twins are “Divine Heroes”. They eventually sacrifice themselves to become the moon and the sun of the Mayan world.