The British Museum and Google Arts & Culture: Decoding the secrets of the ancient Maya

November 29th, 2017

In the 19th century, the explorer Alfred Maudslay set out to capture and preserve the stories the Maya of Central America, one of the largest and most successful indigenous cultures in the world, with more than 2000 years of rich and vibrant history. For decades, he travelled through the region carrying tons of equipment on mule trains through the jungle and created the first glass plate photographs and plaster casts of some of the most important ancient Maya art from the region.

More than 100 years later, Google Arts & Culture and the British Museum are picking up where Maudslay left off. Now, visitors from around the world can explore the Maya’s rich heritage online and learn about their achievements in art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics and language.

In a new set of exhibits, you can rotate incredibly detailed 3D models of ancient Maya art, take 360 virtual tours of the ancient sites of Tikal and Quirigua, and dive into numerous multimedia exhibits and 12 magical Street View panoramas of ancient sites and museums across Guatemala. Here are just a few things you can discover about one of the largest indigenous American populations, who their ancestors were, and what we can learn from them today:

Explore a monstrous Maya sculpture, called a Zoomorph, from the 8th century in 3D from the Maya site of Quirigua, Guatemala. Can you spot the intermingled forms of a jaguar, turtle, snake, and a crocodile?
Zoom in and explore this intricate Maya glyph in 3D from the Zoomorph, created by 3D scanning the plaster cast created in Guatemala jungle in the 19th century. Today this cast is part of the extensive Maudslay Collection of the British Museum.
Discover the heart of ancient Maya world in curated 360 tours of Tikal and Quirigua and Street View of many more sites across Guatemala.
Writer and BBC presenter Kanishk Tharoor shines a light on the Maya people, past and present
Learn more about the Maya language, a unique linguistic achievement of ancient Americas in the online exhibit:
Journalist Robert Bevan on What The Maya Story Tells Us About Global Warming
What happens when you overlay a photo from the 19th century and today of the same Maya sculpture? An eye-catching juxtaposition of Quirigua Stela D
The decorative Fenton Vase from the ancient Guatemalan highlands
Google Expedition to Quirigua, Guatemala for school children
Follow 19th century explorer Alfred Maudslay and his wife Anne on their journey into the Maya world in An Adventurer’s Tale.

We’re proud to have partnered together to bring stories of this important civilization online, while digitally preserving them for the future. The British Museum collections can be viewed online with Google Arts & Culture and on our iOS and Android apps.