Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Origin of the Universe - Sun., July 24, 2016

According to the Maya, we are close to the anniversary date of when our world was brought into being: August 13, 3114 BC. The gods placed three hearthstones, or stelae, into the sky. That act created the universe and cosmic order. On that date, the Maize God sprouted like a cornstalk from the back of the Earth Turtle.

Witte Museum - South Texas Heritage Center
Stelae or hearthstones
Stelae in the Maya exhibit
To assert their direct link to the gods, rulers commissioned carved stelae. Glyphs and images on the stelae described a ruler's royal pedigree or his or her role in historical or mythological events. Erecting these stones in public places was one way leaders proclaimed their power. Today, stelae are the most important source of information about Mayan kings.

We learned this today as tourists in San Antonio. Our destination? The Witte Museum.
"Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed" is the largest traveling exhibition about the Maya ever to be toured in the United States. The Maya wove together politics, commerce, astronomy, agriculture and a deep belief in a spiritual world.

Maize played a large role in the lives of Mayans as it was a primary food source. The Mayan calendar also had a leading role in their lives. Their Tzolk'in calendar is 260 days long which is the length of a pregnancy. Dates and times for rituals and ceremonies were planned using this calendar. In addition, two other calendars were used in conjunction with the Tzolk'in calendar.

The Maya were master builders as evidenced by the many ruins in Mesoamerica. The elite lived in palaces in and around city centers, while commoners' homes were spread across the countryside. Reservoirs captured water and agricultural terraces bore crops that fed large populations. Road networks tied cities together, allowing people and goods to be moved between them. [The information above is from the Mayan exhibit at the Witte Museum.]

The exhibit was very interesting. Bob and I commented it would have been good to see this exhibit before we took our cruise to Mexico, Belize and Honduras. When we saw the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Lamanai we would have had a better understanding of their culture.

While we were on our tour in Lamanai, our tour guide told us of many undiscovered Mayan ruins. New technology using airborne laser sensors, called Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging), is helping to reveal where more sites are located. Part of the Maya exhibit explained how Lidar is helping scientists find more sites.

From the "Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed" exhibit we headed to another gallery in the South Texas Heritage Center to see photos of all the range drivers that were a part of Texas history. There were even some of their charges looking down on us.

A very interesting exhibit was "Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State." I love reading maps. This particular collection is such an evolution of the way people explored and put on paper what they saw. One map, for example, highlighted all the rivers. If you think about it, rivers were the major highways for people and commerce before roads were built. Another map showed all the forts in the United States.

I learned that Gen. Stephen Austin was one of the first Texas mapmakers. He is also called the "Father of Modern Texas."

The map below shows Bexar County with Fort Alamo just above the center. You can see the San Antonio, Medina, Guadalupe, Cibolo and other rivers on this map. Rivers were  important for water in this hot climate. Many of these rivers start as springs coming out of the Edwards Plateau aquifer, a good source of clean, cool water.

From the Mapping Texas exhibit, we made our way upstairs to "A Wild and Vivid Land: Stories of South Texas." Here we learned it was Canary Islanders who set up the grid system of streets in downtown San Antonio. Odds and ends of information about San Antonio and Texas are on display here. A small room is dedicated to O. Scott Petty, a geophysicist who invented a device, an electrostatic seismograph detector, that could find deposits of petroleum by picking up vibrations in the earth.

Me at one of the exhibits in the Witte Museum
Do you know what Farm-to-Market (FM) roads are? I learned about them when I worked at AAA years ago. The Witte Museum has a small display that explains them. Texas is the only state with FM roads. I never knew that before.

Explanation of Farm-to-Market roads
Texas longhorn
Beautiful tile art
Just outside the South Texas Heritage Center is a sculpture by Gutzon Borglum called "Trail Drivers." You might know Gutzon Borglum as the creator of Mt. Rushmore. He lived in and worked on his Mt. Rushmore ideas in San Antonio at a studio in Brackenridge Park before he went to South Dakota.

"Trail Drivers" by Gutzon Borglum
The next special exhibit we saw at the Witte today was "Splendor on the Range: American Indians and the Horse." When Herman Cortes landed on the east coast of Mexico in 1519 he had 11 ships with 508 soldiers and 16 horses. By the mid-1700s, horses had spread across North America. Most of the horses came to North America from Spain and France.

Map showing timeline of horse history in North America
The exhibit focused not only on horses, but on the impact the horses had on the Indians, making their lives easier. The horse was used to pull the travois which helped them move their tipis and belongings over long distances. Horses were also used for attacking and defending.
"Indians Pursued" by Gutzon Borglum
About Gutzon Borglum
Many different aspects of Indian life were shown in this exhibit: moccasins, clothing, weaving, ceremonies, and weaponry.

Pouches were used because they had no pockets
Moccasin boots
Ghost Dance Dress, 1890
The Ghost Dance Dress above was taken from a Lakota woman killed at Wounded Knee and is being exhibited as a reminder of the tragedy that occurred that cold winter day in 1890. The Witte Museum is honoring the request of Chief Oliver Red Cloud. 

Below are Navajo Yeibechai, spiritual beings who communicate with the gods. They aid in medicine ceremonies and other religious events. There are six male and six female Yeibechai dancers, a leader, and the clown or trickster. Sand paintings for healing are accompanied by ceremonies performed by the Yeibechai.

 Below are bags used to carry pipes, and supplies for smoking ceremonies.

From the main Witte building, we made our way outside to see a couple of outdoor exhibits. We found a marker indicating that San Antonio is in Flash Flood Alley. The sign says we can find more information on the second floor of the H-E-B Science Treehouse. We looked and apparently there is no longer a Flash Flood Alley display. We were disappointed that they no longer had it. Even the docent didn't know about it. He said the sign outside must have old information.

The H-E-B Science Treehouse building was somewhat interesting. There were exhibits where you could get some exercise and others to learn about your bodily functions. The exhibit Bob and I liked was the one that took a photo of your body heat signature. Check out the photo below. Are we a couple of hotties, or what? LOL.

Today we learned a lot and wore our brains out. We had one more thing to do...go shopping (at H-E-B Central Market and Bed, Bath and Beyond). After we bought our groceries, we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to see if they had the Ninja Magic Bullet. We wore our Magic Bullet out making smoothies every morning. (A big thank you to Kimmie who gave us our Magic Bullet a few years ago. Kimmie, we have used it a lot!) BB and B had the Magic Bullet, so we were in and out of the store in about five minutes with our new Ninja.

Now it's late and I must get some sleep. Nighty night!


  1. Wow what a day. I'd say that was intellectual overload. I really enjoyed the information on the Maya. I'd love to see that exhibit. The Native American handwork is just so beautiful. What amazing art work in their clothing, pouches and beautiful pipe bags. Thanks for posting about this interesting museum.

    1. Sherry, It was quite a day. The museum is open Sundays from 12 to 5. We got there at 12:30 and they locked the door of the gift shop after us when we left. LOL. The Maya had quite a sophisticated culture. We loved seeing their ruins in Mexico and Belize!

      My mom made a bunch of "peyote pouch" necklaces for me. She is so good at beadwork. The pouches are beautiful and really have a little pouch in them that would fit a quarter.

  2. That looks like a really interesting museum.

    When I moved to Texas in 1998, I was confused by the FM designation. I figured it was the same as other states us of secondary or "state" highways. Didn't realize that that designation is unique to TX.

    I have one of the Ninja Bullets but rarely use it. I use the full size Ninja blender so I can add a bunch of ice and allow for expansion. I love their product line. Does a nice job of blending iced drinks into a very smooth end product.

    1. Cheryl,
      You'd be amazed at what we can fit into our little Ninja Bullet cups for our morning smoothie: two sliced baby carrots, slice of cucumber, 3-4 spinach leaves, mango, walnuts, beets, flax seed, flexseed oil, almond milk, a couple of frozen strawberries, and some frozen blueberries. Yum!!

  3. Let's try to remember to get in touch on or after August 14, to congratulate each other on surviving another big day on the Mayan calendar.


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