The National Museum of Anthropology is a national museum of Mexico. It is the largest and most visited museum in Mexico. Located in the area between Paseo de la Reforma and Mahatma Gandhi Street within Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, the museum contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage, such as the Stone of the Sun (or the Aztec calendar stone) and the Aztec Xochipilli statue.
The museum (along with many other Mexican national and regional museums) is managed by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History), or INAH.
The National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) is one of the most important museums in Mexico and America. It is designed to host and display the archaeological legacy of the peoples of Mesoamerica, as well as to account for the country’s current ethnic diversity. The current building MNA was built between 1963 and 1964 in the Bosque de Chapultepec by instruction of President Adolfo López Mateos, who inaugurated on 17 September 1964. Currently, the building of MNA has 23 permanent exhibition halls, 1 room Temporary exhibitions and two auditoriums. It also houses the collection of the National Library of Anthropology and History.
The collection of the National Museum of Anthropology is made up of numerous archeological and ethnographic pieces from all over Mexico. Some of the most emblematic pieces of the collection Sunstone, which is the heart of the museum itself, the monumental teotihuacanas sculptures dedicated to the gods of water is counted, the treasure of the tomb of King Pakal and an Atlantean Toltec brought from Tollan-Xicocotitlan and the Monolith of Tlaloc that guarded the entrance to the museum.
The MNA is one of the main tourist attractions in Mexico. It attracts more than two million visitors annually.
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, Mayan, 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.
The museum also hosts visiting exhibits, generally focusing on other of the world’s great cultures. Past exhibits have focused on ancient Iran, Greece, China, Egypt, Russia, and Spain.
The National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) has 24 exhibition halls, of which 23 are permanent and one is destined for temporary exhibitions, which are sometimes museographic samples from various museums in the world. Access to the latter is separate from the rest of the museum.
The permanent rooms are distributed on both floors of the building. In the ground floor are located the rooms dedicated to the introduction to the anthropology and the cultures of the Mexican territory, from the Population of America to the Mesoamerican Postclassic Period. At the second level are the 11 ethnography rooms, where exhibit samples of the material culture of indigenous peoples living in Mexico today.
The rooms of anthropology and archeology are arranged around the uncovered part of the central courtyard, which is where the pond of lilies, and are arranged according to a chronological criterion starting from the right side until arriving at the room Mexica. From the room of the cultures of Oaxaca, the order of presentation is geographical. It is possible to emphasize that the room of cultures of the north is dedicated to towns that belonged to the zone known like Aridoamérica, region that extends to the north of the limits of Mesoamerica.
The first room of the MNA corresponds to an introduction to the activity of anthropology. Originally conceived as a space to bring visitors to the four branches in which Classical Anthropology is divided – physical anthropology, social anthropology, ethnology and linguistics. Since the restructuring of the museum began in 19984, it was considered that the pedagogical contents of this room were dedicated to account for the socio-cultural evolution of the human being, its diversity and the relations between the environment and human societies. That is, in this space, the visitor is in front of a tour of the processes that concluded with the hominization of the anthropoids and with the humanization of our ancestors.
In this room is a replica of the fossil skeleton of Lucy, the first known specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, discovered by Donald Johanson in 1974. At the end of the hall corridor is a mosaic of holograms with the faces of people from various parts Of the planet, depending on the visitor’s point of view, it is also possible to observe the shape of the skulls of the men who inhabit each of the regions represented in the mosaic.
This archeology room of the MNA is dedicated to the development process of the first human beings who came to America. Like the room Introduction to Anthropology, this one was also object of the reconstruction of the museum realized between 1998 and 2000. In this process received the name that takes nowadays between 1964 and 1998 was called room of the Origins and was directed towards The evolution of Native American cultures from the first migrations to the differentiation of the Mesoamerican peoples with respect to the rest of the paleoindian societies.
The Population of America room adopts the theory of early settlement of America, which locates migrations across the Bering Strait about 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 about 30,000 years before the present. According to some critics such as Christian Duverger, this trend of Mexican official historiography is based on weak evidence or have a political purpose.
However, in the room Population of America models are exhibited that recreate the way of life of the first human groups hunters and gatherers who occupied what is now Mexico and brings the visitor to the processes that ended with the differentiation of peoples Among others, the development of the lithic industry; Domestication of pumpkin, corn and other crops; Sedentarization and the discovery of pottery. Among other things, the room has a collection of spearheads made in different materials and coming from various parts of Mexico and other 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.
The museum’s third room is dedicated to the peoples who lived in the Neovolcanic Axis and surrounding areas during the first centuries of Mesoamerican civilization in the Mesoamerican Pre-Classic Period. In other words, it possesses objects elaborated between centuries XXIII a. 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 and Tlatilco (state of Mexico), and Cuicuilco and Copilco (Distrito Federal).
The pieces on display in this room give an account of the cultural evolution of the peoples 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 networks of international exchange. The pieces from the central highlands that correspond to this stage highlight the importance of the contact of the altiplano peoples – supposedly Otomanguean descent – with the two Mesoamerican regions of greatest development at that time: the West and the Olmec region. This is revealed by cases such as Tlatilco, whose first pottery shares features with that produced in places 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. For its part, the pieces from Cuicuilco appear to have a more prolonged influence on the peoples of the West, from its flowering to its abandonment.
The fourth permanent room of the museum is dedicated to Teotihuacan culture, whose city of greatest splendor was Teotihuacan, meaning “city where the gods are born”, located to the north of Mexico City.
Outstanding Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, who designed it in 1963 with the collaboration and assistance of Jorge Campuzano and Rafael Mijares, has an impressive architecture with exhibition halls that converge to a central patio. In this courtyard there is a pond of lilies and the famous fountain with umbrella or umbrella shape, supported by a central pillar around which an artificial waterfall falls. The showrooms are surrounded by gardens, many of which contain outside exhibits.
The museum has 44 thousand square meters under the roof, distributed in 23 rooms and 35,700 square meters of open areas that include the central courtyard, the access square and some sunken courtyards around it. In all these spaces is the largest collection of the pre-Hispanic art world of Mesoamerica, fundamentally of the Mayan, Aztec, Olmec, Teotihuacan, Toltec, Zapotec and Mixteca cultures, among other ancient Mexico, as well as an extensive exhibition on ethnography Of the country’s indigenous peoples, which occupies the entire second floor of the museum.
The total area of the museum is 79,700 square meters (almost 8 hectares).
At the end of the eighteenth century the documents that were part of the collection of Lorenzo Boturini were deposited, by order of the viceroy of Bucareli, at the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico. There they also lodged the sculptures of the Coatlicue and the Stone of the Sun, which initiated the museographic tradition in Mexico.
On August 25, 1790, the first Museum of Natural History was inaugurated, assembled by the botanist José Longinos Martínez, and it was in the midst of this atmosphere that the idea arose that an antiquity board was created with the purpose of protecting historical monuments.
From the nineteenth century Mexico was visited by illustrious men of science, as was the case of Baron Alejandro de Humbolt, who disseminated the artistic and historical value of pre-Hispanic monuments, achieving that in 1825, by decree of the President of the Republic Guadalupe Victoria , Advised by historian Lucas Alamán, found the Mexican National Museum as an autonomous institution. For the year 1865, the Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg ordered the transfer of the Museum to the building located in the street of Moneda 13, where had been the Mint.
From 1906 the growth of the collections encouraged Justo Sierra to divide the collection of the National Museum, so the collections of natural history passed to the beautiful building of the Poplar, built especially for permanent exhibitions.
The Museum was then named National Museum of Archeology, History and Ethnography and was reopened on September 9, 1910, in the presence of President Porfirio Diaz. In 1924, the museum’s collection had increased to 52 thousand objects and had received more than 250 thousand visitors, so it was granted the right to vote for the award of the Nobel Prize and was considered one of the Most interesting and prestigious museums in the world.
On December 13, 1940, by decree, the history collections were transferred to Chapultepec Castle, and the Museum changed its name to the current: National Museum of Anthropology.
The construction of the current Museum began in February 1963, in the Forest of Chapultepec. As already mentioned in the Architecture section, the project was coordinated by the architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and assisted by the architects Rafael Mijares and Jorge Campuzano. On the occasion of the inauguration of the National Museum of Anthropology, the Secretary of Public Education (SEP) commissioned the composer Carlos Chávez to create a musical piece entitled “Resonancias” and was released the same day of the inauguration of the National Museum of Anthropology.