Great Museums of the World – The National Museum of Anthropology

Take several misunderstood civilisations which reigned for many centuries, but which were completely unknown to the so-called civilisations in Europe, destroy those civilisations by use of force and watch the jungles reclaim many great cities, and you have good reason to commemorate them in a museum, which is why the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is considered to be one of the world’s great museums.

Located in Chapultepec Park, the museum covers an enormous area of 79,700 square metres, or about eight hectares. The complex consists of 23 exhibition rooms, plus outdoor gardens which feature much statuary and other objects.

This museum is dedicated to the Pre-Columbia history of present day Mexico, and concentrates on ancient civilisations such as the Olmecs, the Mayas and the Aztecs.

The modern Mexico City sits of the ruins of the ancient city of Tenochtitlan, which was found in 1325 in the middle of Lake Texcoco and which later became the Aztec capital. Four great causeways across the lake where built to connect the city to other regions of the Aztec Empire, and the centre of the city consisted of great public buildings and pyramids, making it the largest city in Mesoamerica. The grandeur of Tenochtitlan can be seen at the Museum in a model of the temple area of the city, plus paintings and artefacts which reflect its greatness.

Another of the best known exhibits is the Stone of the Sun, an intricate sculpture which was once thought to be an Aztec calendar, although there is some debate as to its true use. This massive monolithic sculpture, it has a diameter of 12 feet (3 metres) and weighs 20 tonnes, tells through bas reliefs carved into the stone, some of the history of the ancient Mexican people.

Other amazing exhibits include statues from the Olmec era, dating from about 1500 through to 400BC. The Olmecs lived in the areas that are today called Vera Cruz and Tabasco. Their carvings are quite unique and include colossal helmeted heads that are up to 3.4 metres in height, and stylised carvings of humans in various poses.

As well as the permanent exhibitions the Museum also hosts temporary and visiting exhibitions. To gain more insight into the collections the Museum does host guided tours, and given that Pre-Columbian history is not as well known as, say, European or the history of the United States, taking a tour is a great way to gain an understanding of the richness of the displays.

The Museum is open from 9am until 7pm six days a week, and is closed on Mondays.

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