National Geographic : 1993 Jan
On Television Reenactments Bring Alive Archaeology's Lost Maya Infused with divine majesty, the Maya king stands on a stone terrace while his people crowd the ceremonial plaza (above), as reenacted in a new National Geographic Special on PBS TV. With his queen at his side, he per forms a most sacred rite. Gripping a stingray-spine lancet -representing the Perforator God-he pierces his foreskin, releasing royal blood onto thick paper strips. The saturated paper is burned, and in the swirling smoke appear visions of gods and ancestors. Bloodletting and the vision quest were at the heart of Maya civiliza tion, which thrived from A.D. 250 to 900 in fabulous city-states scattered throughout southeastern Mexico and northern Central America. Two-time Emmy-winner Chris tine Weber, producer of the Special, "Lost Kingdoms of the Maya," recalls that the powerful rituals stir souls even today. "Our extras, a BOTHBY JOHNLIVZEY team of Mexican ballplayers, told me that when the 'Maya king' appeared, they felt awed." Archaeologists are not immune to awe either, as Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle, a co-director of the Copan Acropolis Archaeological Project, found when he unearthed before the TV cameras a cache of unique 1,300-year-old chert silhou ettes- "eccentric flints" of extra ordinary mystical significance and artistic imagination. Artistic ingenuity inspired art director Yeorgos Lampathakis, who was in charge of the theatrical repre sentations of original Maya clothing. He confides that the queen's head dress (left), based on an eighth century carving from Yaxchilin, Mexico, is built atop a baseball cap. Society-wide projects that bring the Maya to life include a video, a book, and articles in WORLD, TRAV ELER, and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. "Lost Kingdoms of the Maya," Special on PBS TV, January20, 1993. For information on Maya-related Society projects, call 1-800-638-4077. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICEXPLORERAIRS ON TBS SUPERSTATION,SUNDAYSAT9 P.M. ET . NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSPECIALSAIR ON PBS; CHECKLOCALLISTINGS.