The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico is one of the most important museums, not only in Mexico but in Latin America. Learn more about it!
The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico is one of the most important museums, not only in Mexico but in Latin America. Located in the heart of the country’s vast capital, it is among the most popular attractions in Mexico City and receives up to two million visitors every year. It is the biggest and most renowned anthropology museum in Mexico, showcasing the country’s large ethnic diversity as well as some of the finest cultural artifacts in Latin America from the pre-Columbian era, before the Spanish colonization began around the 16th Century.
Although officially inaugurated in its current form in 1964, the National Museum of Anthropology can be regarded as one of the oldest museums in Mexico, originating over 200 years ago. Interest in the preservation and collection of cultural artifacts was sparked in 1790 when, whilst renovating Mexico City’s main plaza, workers unearthed the Coatlicue Statue, a 9 ft. tall and intricately carved representation of the Aztec Goddess, Coatlicue. Although Europeans at the time thought the statue represented some hideous monster, the respect it gained from the ethnic population, who gave offerings in its honor, demonstrated its true significance.
Just a few months later, the Aztec Sun Stone was found not far from where the Coatlicue Statue was excavated. This is arguably the most famous relic of the Aztec Empire, with some historians arguing that the detailed carvings predict the end of the world while others believe it was used as a centerpiece during ceremonies in which humans were sacrificed to the Gods.
The reason for the wealth of archaeological artifacts beneath Mexico City is simple. After Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes defeated the Aztec Empire in 1521, he razed the huge pyramids and temples of their capital to the ground. Before the demolition the city, Tenochtitlan, was one of the largest and grandest in the world. From the rubble Cortes would build the foundation of modern day Mexico City. This is the reason for the number of Aztec relics beneath the city. Upon first finding these artifacts, European interest in the native cultures intensified throughout the 1800s. The new finds attracted many top academics to study in the area and to more discoveries. Today, the collection of Aztec artifacts from Mexico is very large.
The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico was officially opened in 1964 and inaugurated by President Adolfo Lopez Mateos. The building that houses the museum, designed by three Mexican architects, is visually striking. Its centerpiece is a huge concrete umbrella known as el paraguas in Spanish, from which the main exhibitions are accessed.
The museum boasts 23 permanent exhibition rooms where the most famous attractions, such as the Coatlicue Statue and the Sun Stone, can be viewed. There is also an additional room that houses temporary exhibits focusing on other great ancient cultures from around the world, for example those of China, Egypt, and Greece.
The National Museum of Anthropology is considered one of the best of Mexico City’s museums, a place renowned for having more museums than any other city in the world. Of all Mexican museums, this is the one to visit in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of Mexico’s past, its varying cultures and its diverse people.