The National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) has 24 exhibition halls. The rooms dedicated to anthropology and pre-Hispanic cultures of the Mexican territory are located on the ground floor, from the Population of America to the Mesoamerican Postclassic Period.
The permanent exhibitions on the ground floor cover all pre-Columbian civilizations located on the current territory of Mexico as well as in former Mexican territory in what is today the southwestern United States. They are classified as North, West, Maya, Gulf of Mexico, Oaxaca, Mexico, Toltec, and Teotihuacan. The permanent expositions at the first floor show the culture of Native American population of Mexico since the Spanish colonization.
Exhibition halls in north wing, first floor
Introduction to Anthropology
The adaptations and changes experienced over millions of years permitted the development of physical, social, and cultural characteristics that defined modern-day human beings.
The first room of the MNA corresponds to an introduction to the activity of Anthropology . It was originally conceived as a place to bring visitors to the four branches that are typically divides anthropology – physical anthropology , social anthropology , ethnology and linguistics -. Following the restructuring of the museum that began in 1998, it was considered that the pedagogical contents of this room were dedicated to accounting for the socio- cultural evolution of the human being , its diversityand the relationships between the environment and human societies. That is, in this space, the visitor is faced with a journey through the processes that concluded with the hominization of the anthropoids and with the humanization of our ancestors.
In this room is a reproduction of the fossil skeleton of Lucy , the first known specimen of the Australopithecus afarensis , discovered by Donald Johanson in 1974 . In the final hall of the room there is a mosaic of holograms with the faces of people from different parts of the planet, depending on the point of view of the visitor, it is also possible to observe the shape of the skulls of the men who live in each of the regions represented in the mosaic.
Populating the Americas (30,000–2500 BC)
Climate change forced early hunter-gatherers to introduce a new means of subsistence: agriculture.
This archeology room of the MNA is dedicated to the development process of the first human beings that arrived in America. Like the Introduction to Anthropology room, it was also the object of the restructuring of the museum carried out between 1998 and 2000. In this process it received the name that it currently bears between 1964 and 1998, it was called the Hall of Origins and was oriented towards the evolution of the American indigenous cultures from the first migrations to the differentiation of the Mesoamerican peoples with respect to the rest of the Paleoindian societies.
The Poblamiento de América room adopts the theory of the early settlement of America, which locates migrations through the Bering Strait around 40,000 years before the present. Therefore, the museum script accepts as valid the data that locate the presence of the human being in Mexican territory around 30,000 years before the present. According to some critics such as Christian Duverger , this trend of official Mexican historiography is based on weak evidence or has a political purpose.
Anyway, in the Poblamiento de América room there are models that recreate the way of life of the first human groups hunters and gatherers who occupied what is now Mexico and brings visitors closer to the processes that concluded with the differentiation of the peoples Mesoamericans – among others, the development of the lithic industry ; the domestication of pumpkin , corn and other crops; the sedentary and the discovery of pottery-. Among other things, the room has a collection of spearheads made of various materials and from various parts of Mexico and other adjacent countries. It also has a set of pieces related to the development of agriculture , fossil samples of the first American crops and reproductions of rock art from sites such as the Sierra de San Francisco in Baja California Sur .
Preclassic Central Highlands (2500 BC–AD 100)
Population growth and agricultural exploitation promoted the emergence of the earliest stratified societies.
The third room of the museum is dedicated to the people who lived in the Neovolcanic Axis and surrounding areas during the first centuries of the Mesoamerican civilization, in the Mesoamerican Preclassic Period . In other words, it has elaborate objects between the 21st centuries BC. C. and I d. C. , according to the Mesoamerican chronology used mostly in Mexico. These are pieces found in excavations at sites such as Zohapilco , Tlapacoya , Tlatilco ( state of Mexico ), Cuicuilco and Copilco ( Federal District ).
The pieces on display in this room give an account of the cultural evolution of the towns of central Mexico during the Preclassic. This was the longest period in Mesoamerican history, at which time the various peoples of the region were developing their most characteristic features and international exchange networks. The pieces from the central highlands that correspond to this stage highlight the importance of the contact of the high plateau peoples – of supposed Ottoman affiliation – with the two most developed Mesoamerican regions at that time: the West and the Olmec region . This is revealed by cases such as Tlatilco, whose first ceramic shares traits with that produced in sites such as El Opeño( Michoacán ); later, Tlatilco received a strong Olmec influence, one of whose most important testimonies is the piece known as The Acrobat . On the other hand, the pieces coming from Cuicuilco appear a more prolonged influence of the peoples of the West, from its flowering to its abandonment.
Teotihuacan (AD 100–700)
Teotihuacan was a pilgrimage center and economic power whose influence reached faraway regions within and beyond Mesoamerica, even after its decline
The museum is dedicated to Teotihuacan , which is one of the largest and most important archeological sites in Pre-Columbian America. It was built for more than 651 years, from the end of the Preclassic (100-200 BC) to the end of the Early Classic or the beginning of the Epiclassic period (650 AD), characteristic of the Central Highlands. The pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent – also known as the Quetzalcoatl Temple – and the Causeway of the Dead, constitute the group of main ceremonial buildings that served as landmarks to guide, trace and build the city .
Its extraordinary architecture with a symmetrical spatial distribution, planned according to the orographic features of the valley and its vision as the center of the cosmos, constituted a magical space that communicated human beings with the universe. In the constructions, we can see the great influence and political power that the government had on the population, not only in the same city and towns of the Central Highlands, but also towards other distant regions from western Mexico to Central America.
The approximate calculation of people who lived in the city during the peak period (400-600 AD), is approximately more than 100,000 inhabitants and the size of the city (urban spot) close to 25 square kilometers. Teotihuacan government members developed a political system that allowed them to maintain a stratified society, divided into different sectors that participated with labor in productive activities. There are priests, knowledge holders and in charge of transmitting it to society following established norms and parameters. The base of the social pyramid was formed by sectors of artisans, builders in general, experts in obtaining, transporting materials and raw materials, farmers “peasants”, a fundamental sector for the maintenance of the political system and merchants, responsible for transport Short and long distance “import and export” of exchange goods.
Obsidian , others of basalt and andesite, pieces elaborated in these materials correspond to utilitarian objects and others for ornamental use, which represent religious and political symbols. Objects made of “green stones” that had enormous symbolic value should also be included. In Teotihuacan, sumptuary objects manufactured in shellfish shells have been found, among them the reddish clams of the species Spondyilus princeps , Spondylus calcifer and Chama echinata , and Turbinella angulata snails. There was also the industry of artifacts made in bones of animals and humans; Because the bone has great qualities of hardness, flexibility and transformation potential, they used it as raw material to make ornaments, tools and tools.
Through mural painting we can interpret some elements present in the worldview and the existing social hierarchies in this capital. The iconographic repertoire is very extensive, usually showing rituals where animals and human beings are sumptuously dressed with numerous symbols. All this indicates that in Teotihuacan there was a very well organized society with a marked social stratification that formed a multiethnic and multicultural religious political unit that led to complex sociocultural relations.
In the room, the visitor will appreciate various examples of Teotihuacan culture: theater-type censers, reproductions of the murals found in residential complexes, the reproduction of a part of the facade of the Temple of the Plumed Serpents, the Delgado Orange ceramics and several stone objects.
The Toltec and the Epiclassic (AD 700–1200)
After the fall of Teotihuacan, independent centers such as Xochicalco, Cantona, and Cacaxtla arose, followed by the hegemony of Tula.
After the fall of Teotihuacan there was a power vacuum in the Central Highlands, which was used by different groups that founded new cities; Cacaxtla stand out, located in the current state of Tlaxcala; Xochicalco, in Morelos and Tula, in Hidalgo, capital of the Toltecs. The competition to control the old Teotihuacan commercial routes generated a political and warlike environment, which is reflected in the disposition of the new centers, in their art and iconography and in other cultural expressions. Most of the new cities were characterized by having a multi-ethnic population, product of the population movements typical of the Epiclassic period (600-900 A.D.).
The room welcomes visitors with the reproduction of the famous wall paintings of Cacaxtla, extraordinary works of Mesoamerican painting. The iconography that appears in these murals shows the conjunction of various ethnic groups in that place. The symbolism embodied in such works is typical of the Teotihuacan, Mayan and Zapotec cultures. Calendrical signs are perceived that combine the system of central Mexico and southeast Mesoamerica; Mayan and Teotihuacan iconography that is intertwined in a combination of images of exceptional color. Below are pieces of Xochicalco, a site that stands out for its famous pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, whose reproduction can be seen in the room.
The central theme of the room is the Toltec culture, a town from northern Mexico that entered the Central Highlands around the 10th century A.D. The documentary sources describe the Toltecs as great artists, experts in the plastic arts, metalwork, pen and lapidary. His city, Tula, was considered one of many replicas of the archetypal and divine Tollan, as well as Teotihuacan, Cholula, Mexico-Tenochtitlán and, perhaps, Chichen Itza. From Chichimec origins according to documentary sources, these peoples acquired Mesoamerican culture quickly. Within its cultural complex, the use of tzompantli stands out, a structure where the skulls of war captives were placed; the chac mool, sculpture of a semi-dressed character with the legs collected and with a bowl in the chest to deposit the offerings; the columns in the form of feathers descending feathers; tombstones with representations of animals devouring hearts; the famous “atlantes” and the standard bearers.
The Toltecs managed to consolidate themselves as one of the most important towns in Mesoamerica during the Early Postclassic period (900-1200 AD). They dominated a large territory of Central Mexico and extended their influence to distant territories such as Chichen Itza and the Pacific coast of Chiapas and Guatemala. The above allowed them to control certain resources whose exchange they monopolized: Plumbate ceramics, from Soconusco chiapaneco and Anaranjado Fino ceramics from the Veracruz area. Among the most representative pieces of this section are: an “Atlantean”; the reproduction of the temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, with some of the original gravestones of carnivorous animals; the shell made with shell beads, located in the Burned Palace of Tula; a chac mool, remains of a feathered serpent-shaped column; the coyote warrior-shaped figurine and several examples of pottery, among which the type stands out plumb.
Mexico National Museum of Anthropology
The National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) is one of the most important museum sites in Mexico and America. It is designed to house and exhibit the archeological legacy of the peoples of Mesoamerica, as well as to account for the country’s current ethnic diversity. The current MNA building was built between 1963 and 1964 in the Chapultepec Forest at the instruction of President Adolfo López Mateos, who inaugurated it on September 17, 1964. Currently, the MNA building has 22 permanent exhibition halls, two temporary exhibition halls and three auditoriums. Inside is the National Library of Anthropology and History.
The current headquarters of the National Museum of Anthropology was inaugurated on September 17, 1964 and, for more than five decades, has accomplished the mission of investigating, conserving, exhibiting and disseminating the most important archaeological and ethnographic collections in the country.
This icon of urban architecture of the twentieth century was designed to be, more than a repository, a space for reflection on the rich indigenous heritage of our multicultural nation. The 22 rooms and its more than 45 thousand square meters of construction make it the largest museum in Mexico and one of the most visited in the world.
In this important enclosure the archaeological and anthropological testimonies forged by multiple cultural groups are housed over hundreds of years of history; At the same time, it pays tribute to the indigenous peoples of Mexico today through a large collection that rescues the uses, representations, expressions, knowledge and traditions that are the nation’s intangible heritage and a legacy that belongs to all humanity.
The collection of the National Museum of Anthropology is made up of numerous archaeological and ethnographic pieces from all over Mexico. Among some of the most emblematic pieces of the collection is the Piedra del Sol – which is the heart of the museum itself – the colossal heads of the Olmec culture, the monumental Teotihuacan sculptures dedicated to the gods of water, Pakal’s tomb, the funeral offerings of Monte Albán, the stelae of Xochicalco, as well as a Toltec atlantean brought from Tollan-Xicocotitlan and the Tláloc Monolith that guards the entrance to the museum.
The MNA is one of the main tourist sites in Mexico. It attracts more than two million visitors every year. The museum is one of the largest museums on the continent.