The most visited museum in all Mexico, the National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología, MNA) is a must see for visitors from around the world. Here’s just the briefest of introductions.
Between 1940 and 1960, an intense intellectual movement flourished. It sought a Mexican identity based on the dignity of the very indigenous heritage that had long been looked down upon. This movement wanted to create a great museum to tie together all indigenous Mexican heritage, especially that gained through archaeology.
The administration of President Adolfo Lopez Mateos began planning, and a museum was built under the direction of architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez between 1963 and 1964. Today, the National Anthropology Museum is known worldwide for the richness and quality of the collections exhibited here.
The collection dates back to 1790 when the Sun Stone was uncovered at the base of the Metropolitan Cathedral. The years that followed saw major works rediscovered: monumental sculptures of Coatlicue, the Tizoc Stone, and the colossal head of a Xiuhcoatl (the fire serpent). These finds fueled an increased interest in knowledge and the desire to protect this cultural heritage and its meanings.
The building itself has also won awards. The suspended roof (pictured) is the central focus of the museum courtyard. Designed in the style of the open forums of Maya ceremonial centres, all the decorations on the façade are allegorical, making references to pre-Hispanic symbols such as the snake and the snail.
The National Museum of Anthropology is divided into two major sections.
The Anthropology section occupies the ground floor of the building, and access to the rooms is directly from the large central courtyard. Eleven galleries provide a good grasp on the entire field of anthropology.
Introduction to Anthropology
The Peopling of the Americas
The Pre-classical Period in the Central Highlands
The Teotihuacan Culture
The Epi-classic period
The Cultures of Oaxaca
The Cultures of the Gulf Coast
Cultures of the West and North.
At the center of the museum, dominating the central hall, is the great Aztec calendar stone which was recovered from the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the Sun Stone.
The Ethnography area, on the upper floors, has eleven more galleries dedicated to the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Galleries are organized as follows.
Sierra de Puebla
Oaxaca: Pueblos Indios del Sur
Culturas del Golfo de México
Pueblos Mayas de la planicie y las selvas
Pueblos Mayas de las montañas
El Noroeste: Sierras, desiertos y valles
The museum also participates in the research, protection, and promotion of all of its collections.
Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round, closed Mondays