Anthropology Halls in South Wing, Mexico National Museum of Anthropology

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 south wing, first floor

Northern Mexico
Room 11
Northern Mesoamerica was the setting for multiple cultures that lived in large settlements, such as Paquimé and Alta Vista, or in small villages, as in the case of the Hohokam and Anasazi peoples.

The geographical space that encompasses the Hall of Cultures of Northern Mexico goes from the northern part of the Central Highlands and part of the Bajío, that is, the state of Querétaro and part of Guanajuato; all the states of the north center, that is to say San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and Durango; as well as all of northern Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, northern Tamaulipas and the peninsula of Baja California, meaning that this space covers about two thirds of the national territory.

Among these collections is one of what is now the southwest of the United States and that until 1847 was the far northwest of the Mexican Republic. Chronologically, the room covers from about 2,000 years BC until the time of the Conquest. Therefore, the collections exhibited in this room have a great variety, since they come from a very wide geographical space and from historical periods very distant from each other.

The first section is dedicated to hunter-gatherers who, despite being the least represented societies in the collections of the room, are the ones that occupied the largest territories of what is now northern Mexico, and for longer periods of time. This section highlights materials from the Candelaria Cave in Coahuila, where the most important pre-Hispanic textile collection from northern Mexico comes from, which is from 1205 AD, approx. There are also objects from the peninsula of Baja California (2000 BC – 1400 AD, approx.) And a reproduction of cave paintings of the great mural style of that region, dated around 2000 BC.

The second section is dedicated to sedentary societies of Mesoamerican tradition that colonized what are now the states of Guanajuato, Querétaro and San Luis Potosí in the first centuries of our era. In the collections of the Bajío one can see a clear influence of the Chupícuaro and Teotihuacana traditions, as well as in the objects of the Sierra Gorda queretana and Río Verde, San Luis Potosí; a clear Huastecan influence of the Classic (200-900 AD) is noted. The third section is dedicated to the more developed pre-Hispanic societies of what are currently the states of Zacatecas and Durango, where the Chalchihuites culture stands out, which meant the most northern advance of Mesoamerican agricultural societies. The Zacatecan branch of this tradition is earlier dating around 300 and 950 AD. C. and the duranguense branch is later between 900 and 1350 AD. C., approximately.

The next section is dedicated toI already paid for the Casas Grandes culture that was the most developed tradition of what is now Chihuahua and that mixed various Mesoamerican elements and pre-Hispanic cultures of the southwestern United States. UU. Its period of greatest development was approximately between 1100 and 1400 AD. C. In the last section the collection of the region of the present southwest of the USA is exposed. belonging to the three main cultural traditions of that region: mogollón, hohokam and anazasi. The temporality of this collection is very varied and ranges from 200 to 1600 AD. C. approx. However, it is important to highlight that these cultural traditions are a fundamental antecedent of the Casas Grandes culture.

West Mexico
Room 10
Various societies that lived in West Mexico stood out for their artistic expressions, their conception of the human body, and their metalworking technology.

The West of Mesoamerica was formed by the current states of Guerrero, Michoacán, Nayarit, Colima, Jalisco, parts of Guanajuato and southern Sinaloa. During the Classic period the cultural tradition of the Tombs of Tire was important, typical of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco. The Tombs of Tirethey were funerary enclosures, excavated in the tepetate with one or more chambers which were accessed by a cylindrical shot that could have a depth of 2 to 16 meters and a diameter that could reach two meters. In them rich offerings of clay objects were deposited. The quality of the ceramic pieces has led the Tombs of Tire to become a systematic object of the looting.

The tour begins with the earliest examples of ceramics, such as those of Capacha and El Opeño style. Then, divided into different themes: daily life, fauna, flora, clothing among others, figures, vessels and other objects from Colima, Jalisco and Nayarit are exposed. The artisans of this region reached great detail in their works, the representations of animals, plants and fruits are totally naturalistic. From the Nayarit region, the models of houses that show the daily activities of the population stand out.

There is a section dedicated to cultureChupícuaro from the Bajío region. Also from the Classic period, but from the Guerrero region, pieces of the Mezcala tradition are exhibited , which was characterized, mainly, by the elaboration of green stone masks, whose features are very schematic. The Postclassic is represented by pieces of the Tarascan culture, inhabitants of the lacustrine zone of Michoacán, who arrived at the beginning of the period and who founded a huge conquering state in places like Tzitzuntzan , Pátzcuaro and Ihuatzio. Ceramics and metal objects, especially copper, are the most important. Descuella, also, the sculpture of a chacmool and a throne in the form of a coyote from the site of Ihuatzio.

Room 9
The Maya employed complex writing systems to record events that marked the political life of their ruling dynasties.

One of the diverse cultures of ancient Mesoamerica was the Mayan. Located in a huge territory that includes the current states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo in Mexico and the countries of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and part of El Salvador. These groups managed to develop a complex writing system, a precise calendar and elaborated some of the most exquisite artistic expressions of our pre-Hispanic past.

The Maya were the product of a very long cultural development that began around 2000 BC (early Preclassic period). Around 1500 BC, the Pacific coastal strip of Chiapas witnessed the development of the Izapa style, some of whose features were subsequently incorporated by the Maya. One of these elements is what has been called the altar-stele set, which can be observed at the beginning of the visit through the room. Certain iconographic patterns that were common during the Classic period (200-900 AD) were also developed. One of the important aspects of these groups was the development of a complex system of social organization, reflected in their material culture, as we observed in several of the pieces of this room.

We begin with the schematic vision of the social pyramid, composed of a series of ceramic figurines recovered during exploration work on Jaina Island, Campeche. The ancient cities of some importance in their regional scope, had the head of the k’uhul ajaw (sacred Lord), character who generally accessed power through inheritance. Under it was a group of public servants, such as warriors, priests, administrators, merchants, artists and architects, among others, who were part of the nobility and dynastic lineages, some were even relatives of the ruler himself. All of them supported by a large sector of peasants and artisans who spent much of their time producing food and those objects that were used in everyday life.

A significant part of the artistic manifestations that were embodied in sculpted monuments, were aimed at political propaganda. In steles, lintels, vessels and other formats, the rulers were portrayed practicing rituals, performing dances, or as warriors submitting captives and manifesting their real power through highly elaborate outfits that included feather headdresses, ceremonial bars, scepters in the form of gods and jewels.

Some rulers were so powerful that their influence persisted after their death. An example of the above was the elaboration of magnificent tombs such as that of the sacred lord of Palenque,K’ihnich Janaab ‘Pakal , discovered in 1952 by archaeologist Alberto Ruz , after two years of explorations inside the Temple of the Inscriptions. The sovereign was buried inside a monolithic sarcophagus closed by a huge slab. In her scenes related to the myth of the death and resurrection of the corn god were captured. In the tomb of K’ihnich Janaab ‘Pakal a rich offering with jadeite objects was deposited, among which a mask that covered his face stands out. This offering and the construction of the temple realize the power that the Mayan rulers reached and can be appreciated in this room.

Gulf Coast
Room 8
At different moments of history, three cultural groups occupied this exuberant area: the Olmec, Totonac, and Huastec.

The cultural area of ​​the Gulf Coast was a large region that covered the current states of Veracruz, northwestern Tabasco, southern Tamaulipas and parts of Querétaro, Hidalgo and San Luis Potosí. In general terms, it can be divided into three major cultural areas: the Olmec zone, the north-center of Veracruz and the Huasteca.

During the Middle Preclassic, Olmec culture developed on the Gulf Coast, which was characterized by the size of large monolithic sculptures known as colossal heads, basaltic columns for the elaboration of altars; the use of jade in different ceremonial objects and for a distinctive iconography intimately related to the jaguar such as flaming eyebrows, mouths with the corners down, stylized jaguar claws and the front of his characters with a central “V” shaped cleft . These features have allowed specialists to define the objects that present this iconography as an Olmec style, whose dissemination and influence reached cultural regions outside the area, mainly in central Mexico and Oaxaca. Recent studies propose that the inhabitants of San Lorenzo, La Venta and Tres Zapotes, sites considered as the Olmec nuclear area, belonged to peoples of the Myxe-Zoque language.

In the section of the room dedicated to the Olmec culture, two Colossal Heads are exhibited, objects made of green stone, an area in which the Olmecs stood out technically and stylistically; various ceramic and some wooden objects, such as the busts found in El Manatí, Veracruz. From the late Preclassic period (400 BC-200 AD) and later during the Classic (200-900 AD), the center-north of Veracruz concentrated a larger population and many of its urban centers began to develop. Highlights include sites like Soaking, El Zapotal and El Tajín(whose boom was presented from the year 900 AD). From this cultural moment, the figurines known as “Smiling Caritas” stand out. At this time the distinctive complex called “yoke-palm-ax” develops, these objects were carved in stone and have been related to the ball game and funeral rites.

The last part of the room is dedicated to expose the Huasteca culture, which had a greater presence at the end of the Classic and during the Postclassic period (900-1521 AD). La Huasteca is a territory with great geographic variability – coasts, jungles, semi-desert areas and mountains – which covers northern Veracruz, southern Tamaulipas and parts of San Luis Potosí, Querétaro and Hidalgo. Distinctive of this culture are the sculptural works, which are characterized by being made in sandstone slabs, generally in the case of deities, with a hieratic and rigid character because the lapidaries had to be subject to the dimensions of the slab. TheHuastecos masterfully worked different species of shells, achieving fine objects, among which pectorals stand out with complex historical scenes and mythological.

Room 7
Oaxaca was the setting for two great cultures: the Zapotec, builders of the city of Monte Albán and the Mixtec, renowned for their artistic creativity.

The Zapotecs and the Mixtecs were ethnic groups that inhabited and inhabit the current State of Oaxaca, and governed at different times the destinies of this complex multicultural area. Monte Alban, the capital of the Zapotecs, was built on the top of a hill modified by the builders to form a plateau, approximately 500 BC. It was strategically located at the confluence of the central valleys of Oaxaca –Etla, Tlacolula and Zimatlan-. Among the first buildings in the city, Building “L” stands out in which tombstones with carved characters popularly known as “dancers” were placed; these characters really represent war captives, sacrificed and mutilated, that manifest the military might of the city. Another of the monuments that shows the conquests of Monte Albán are the tombstones of Building “J”, which is distinguished by breaking with the north-south orientation of the rest of the buildings and by the peculiar shape of its plant that recalls a tip of projectile. In the Zapotec capital the constructive mastery of its architects is displayed, both in civil and religious buildings, as in temples, tombs and ball games.

Another important element of the Zapotec culture is the early development of writing, which stands out in the aforementioned tombstones and in some of the ceramic pieces presented in the Hall. Ceramic objects are another feature to be noted for their exquisiteness and variety of shapes, the urns that were usually deposited in mortuary offerings stand out. These objects were mainly represented gods, high-ranking characters and animals considered as the zoomorphic manifestations of deities. With respect to the latter, the mask-pectoral of God Bat, beautifully worked in pieces of jade, is exhibited in the Hall, This being one of the masterpieces of pre-Hispanic art. The relationship with the distant Teotihuacan is present in the Hall with different ceramic objects that show its influence. In addition, a stone carved lintel from the South Platform of Monte Albán stands out, it shows a procession of Teotihuacan characters, who approach the ruler of Monte Albán. Funeral architecture was very important in Monte Albán. The tombs varied in shape, decoration and content depending on the time of construction of the graves. In the Hall you can see the reproduction of tomb 104, which stands out for its magnificent facade that evokes the architecture of the city. Its walls were painted with images of gods and characters, in a colorful and style reminiscent of Teotihuacan mural painting.

The cultural development of the Mixtecs is also presented in the Hall, a town that had a greater presence during the Postclassic period (850-1521 AD). Their history and worldview can be reconstructed from the codices they made, of them, four facsimilars are exhibited: Selden, Vindobonensis, Nuttal and Colombino. Among the pieces that stand out the most are polychrome ceramics and the “codex” type, one of the most beautiful in Mesoamerica. Skilled in the work of objects of smaller format, the Mixtecs carved with elegance and delicacy religious scenes in bones of both humans and animals, in these delicate pieces the “codex” style that is characteristic of them is reflected. Special mention deserves the work of metallurgy and goldsmithing, Noting for the technical skill exhibited by the pieces achieved through the technique called “lost wax”, through which the finest and most delicate pieces that used the dominant classes as power badges were worked on.

The Mixtecs have been considered the most important goldsmiths of pre-Hispanic Mexico, creators of a refined style spread rapidly throughout Mesoamerica. In the room we can see gold objects from different Mixtec areas, and in the garden, the reproduction of Tomb 7 of Monte Albán, with reproductions of the world famous “Treasure of the The Mixtecs have been considered the most important goldsmiths of pre-Hispanic Mexico, creators of a refined style spread rapidly throughout Mesoamerica.

Mexica (AD 1200–1521)
Room 6
Tribute, agriculture, and trade were the three pillars of the economy of the Mexica Empire; its social development depended directly on warfare.

The room shows the power and importance that the Mexican culture reached during the late postclassic period (1250-1521 AD). The Mexica were a conquering town that arrived in the Basin of Mexico in the mid-fourteenth century, from the mythical northern city of Aztlan . After a long journey they managed to settle on a small islet inside Lake Texcoco , which belonged to the manor of Azcapotzalco, the most powerful so far in central Mesoamerica. For several years, the Mexica were subjected to the political and military control of the Tezcanecas of Azcapotzalco, until after a war they managed to free themselves from their domain and gradually become the most influential political power in the Basin.

Together with their allies, Texcoco and Tlacopan, they formed the Triple Alliance , a tripartite political system through which they controlled much of Mesoamerica through the war of conquest. The central purpose of Mexican expansionism was not the territorial domain, but the tax benefit that allowed them to have access to natural resources, the reorganization of trade and the control of important markets.

In the room the visitor will be able to appreciate magnificent sculptural works of great format like the Coatlicue and the Stone of the Sun; a feline-shaped Cuauhxicalli and the Tízoc Stone. There are also pieces of lapidary, in smaller format but of exceptional work, such as the monkey-shaped obsidian vessel.

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.