My Eyewitness Travel guide calls the Museo Nacional de Antropologia “One of the most important (museums) of its kind in the world”. This isn’t hype; it’s a true statement. It’s so fine that Ruth and I staggered out of it after 4 hours, not because we had seen everything but because we simply couldn’t absorb any more. The experience cost 130 pesos. That’s $3.60 each.
Across the Paseo de la Reforma from the Bosque de Chapultepec, Museo Nacional de Antropologia is dedicated to Mexican pre-Hispanic art and artifacts. Beyond the entry building where visitors buy tickets is a stadium-sized courtyard. Three sides provide entry to entire temples, Aztec monoliths, and a series of halls on two levels with names like Toltec and Oaxaca. These halls exhaustively explain Mexican culture and society with a definite focus on people. Without exaggeration, one travel guide calls the contents of these halls “…treasures of incalculable historical valve”.
Just beyond the entry is one of the most dramatic fountains I’ve ever seen atop a carved pillar. That’s the top of this fountain at the top of this blog.
Before I became practically too tired to write, I noted in my notebook that the curators insightfully divided Mexico into regions and gave the entire history of each native culture with objects, especially pottery. They compared and contrasted local living styles, and it became obvious to me after a while that women raising children and completing domestic duties held everything together while the men were often shown to be highly decorated warriors and protectors. “Men were able to populate the world because L’itoi killed the Neebig,” and similar expressions abounded.
Films constantly playing in most rooms showed people performing everyday rituals, doing crafts, attending festivals, etc. At one point I went in search of Ruth to show her several costumed young men atop a pole literally flying in a circle while being held to the structure only by their ankles. These cultures were not often about technological breakthroughs and great wealth; 6,000 years of basket making and imaginative crafting would be closer to their reality.
If you get a chance to experience this wonder of a place, don’t do what Ruth and I did. We saw the exhibits in reverse, which means that we were looking at evolution and pre-history stuff at the end of our tour instead of at the beginning. Other than overviews , there was very little in English, no free museum guide, and no one to tell us to go right instead of left after we gaped at the fountain. If you don’t speak much Spanish and feel the need for more details about what you’re about to see, I’d suggest you begin your visit to the national anthropological museum in the gift shop buying a guide.