Exploring Mexico’s History at the National Museum of Anthropology
I have to admit museums can be hit or miss for me. When I’m in one of the world’s great cities it takes a lot for me to dedicate a few hours to a museum when I could be out exploring. While researching what I should do in Mexico City more than a few people, including some of the most well-traveled bloggers I know as well as some locals I met, recommended that I make a stop at the National Museum of Anthropology my interest was piqued. I expected to learn about Mexico’s pre-Hispanic cultures. but what I found here was so much more than your typical museum. With a location in Mexico City‘s Chapultepec Park, a strikingly modern exterior, and a collection of artifacts far beyond my imagination; Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology deserves a place among the world’s great museums.
Steve and I visited the museum after a few hours lazily strolling through Chapultepec Park, Mexico City’s version of Central Park. As we approached to museum I was immediately struck by it’s size-at over 20 acres this place is huge. The exterior building is a stunning work of modern architecture, a behemoth of white marble and concrete featuring honeycomb walls and an interior courtyard. A singular bronze column supports an angular umbrella roof, a breathtaking fountain rains down the bronze column that features a relief depicting important events in Mexican history.
We visited on a Sunday when admission is free for Mexican residents (typically 65 pesos any other time or for foreign visitors) but crowds weren’t much of an issue. Before exploring the museum there is a quick stop to drop off any bags or backpacks at a guarded locker station as they aren’t allowed in the main spaces of the museum. The museum’s collection includes artifacts dating back to 100 BC and suffice to say the Museum of Anthropology is comprehensive in its scope and coverage of pre-Columbian cultures. I’m no anthropologist so I wouldn’t do Mexico any justice if I tried to explain the diverse and compelling history based off of my two hour visit here (the folks at the museum would do a much better job than I ever could) but I do want to highlight some of the exhibits that made an impact on me.
Having visited the Mayan pyramids of Tikal in Guatemala and gazed upon Mayan relics while spelunking in the Actun Tunichil Muknal in Belize it was no surprise that I made a beeline for the Mayan exhibit.The Maya,one of Mesoamerica’s most influential civilizations, are most known for their advanced knowledge of mathematics and astronomy as well as having the fully translated writing system from the pre-Columbian Americas. Highlights here include a full scale replica of the tomb of King Pakal, which was unearthed deep in the jungles of Palenque; and impressive replicas of Mayan temples in an outdoor garden area against the backdrop of urban Mexico City.
The Aztec rooms are some of the most colorful and fascinating parts of the museum.The scale and detail of replicas from the ruins of Teotihuacan are simply jaw dropping. One of the most famous artifacts in the museum’s collection is Aztec Sun Stone, which was unearthed in 1790 in Mexico’s Zocalo during renovations to the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Leaving the museum I spotted this mural and was immediately drawn to it. The serpent represents light and the jaguar is the night. Are you team serpent or team jaguar?
I could have easily spent an entire day here and still not seen everything. Educational and inspirational, reflective and thought-provoking, the Mexico National Museum of Anthropology is everything a great museum should be.