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Category Archives: Anthropology

Stones from Heaven – Stunning carvings of Jade and Jadite from Ancient Civilizations of Mesoamerica and China

Jade, more correctly – Jadeite,  was prehispanic Mexico’s diamonds. This green stone was no less valuable in Asian cultures. “Stones from Heaven: Civilizations of Jade” offers a glimpse into both the ritual and decorative aspects of what was once, and continues to be, a highly prized stone in both Mesoamerica and China. The 220 pieces on display at this relatively small but highly illustrative exhibit currently on at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is one not to be missed.

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A Mexica (central Mexico culture, late post-classical period) rendition of a human heart, carved out out green stone. And remember that the Mexicas  who practiced human sacrifice knew a thing or two about human anatomy!! (24.2 x 20.9 x 14.1 cm) Photo: National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Called “yu” in Chinese, “chalchihuitl” in Nahuatl, and “ya’ax chin hun” in Mayan, the term “jade” loosely refers to a variety of metamorphic green stones including jadeites and nephrites (a distinction best left for geologists and gemologists to differentiate) – all of which were of great value to early civilizations. Varying in size, craftsmanship and hues, the pieces showcased were hand-picked from hundreds of pieces crafted by the ancient cultures of China and Mexico.

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The Chinese items are on loan from the Forbidden City’s Chinese Imperial Palace Museum (of Beijing) marking the framework of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the People’s Republic of China. The Mexican objects have been culled from collections of the Olmec civilization, Teotihuacan culture, Mexica and Maya zones (borrowed from the National Museum of Anthropology), Teotihuacan, the Regional Museum of Yucatan, the Regional Museum of Campeche, the INAH in Veracruz, the Regional Museum of Tabasco, the Templo Mayor Museum and the Anthropology Museum of Xalapa).

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An elaborate funeral mask of Yuhkno’m Yihch’aak K’ahk’ (translated as Jaguar Claw) Maya Calakmul ruler (from Campeche, classical period). Mosaic work made principally from jadeite, shell and obsidian. Ca. 695 d.C., 28.2 x 21.5 cm. Photo: National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

All are stunning. The displays are divided into five principal themes touching on the characteristics of jade/jadeite and the techniques of working with these stones; the rituals involving jade/jadeite and its aesthetics; jade/jadeite as a symbol of power and the last segment of the exhibit shows evidence of how it was believed that jade/jadeite accompanied people into the after-world, both in Mesoamerican and Chinese cultures. The use of funeral masks in ancient Mexico is illustrated with a spectacular piece from the tomb of Calakmul’s great ruler Jaguar Claw, dating back to the late 7th century.

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Jade Mountain, from the Qing Dynasty (1736-1795), 51 x 51.5 cm. Photo: National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

The oldest item shown is a piece from China – shaped like a ring – calculated to be close to 7,000 years old.

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Prismatic Tube (Cong), carved from grayish-green jade. Liangzhu Culture dating back to the Neolithic Period (3200 BC -2200 BC), 31 x 7.5 x 7.5 cm. Photo: National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

The array of carved items, range from utilitarian pieces such as incense burners, arrow heads, musical instruments and jewelry, to sculptures of animals, humans and scenes, provide viewers with an ample selection of styles, uses, materials and symbols. It is fascination how these two unrelated early civilizations showed parallel esteem for this naturally occurring ornamental stone.

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Jadeite treasures from K’inich Hanaab Pakal’s tomb on permanent exhibit at the museum in the Mayan Hall (Maya civilization, classical period). Photo: Lynda Martinez del Campo

Ironically the color green has taken on a renewed relevance today. Whether it be nephrite or jadite from Asia or the Americas, this exhibit curiously reminded me that the color green, symbolizing life and vitality for early agricultural societies, has come full circle. Given our 21st century environmental sensitivities, once again the color green has become not only pertinent but fashionable to our cultural – with people “thinking green,” and activist groups baring names such as Green Peace or Partido Verde (a Mexican political party).  Whether you are an environmentalist or not, be sure to catch this unusual collection which shows how two unrelated civilizations held such a high regard for this rare, natural stone.

The National Museum of Anthropology is in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City. It is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am to 7 pm. General entrance fee is $57 pesos.

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Awesome On-Site Museum at Tlateloloco (After A 50 Year Wait!)

A sign for the new on-site museum at Tlatelolco, depicting its pre-Hispanic glyph (a mound of sand)

A spectacular on-site museum has just opened in Tlatelolco showcasing the artifacts from the archaeological zone. To be more precise, there are two new museums to be seen – the impressive ground-floor exhibit showcasing the items found during the many phases of excavation at Tlateloco (Mexico-Tenochtitlan’s twin city), plus the extraordinary collection of Kurt and Lore Stavenhagen on the second floor of the CCUT Tower (the Tlatelolco University Cultural Center), a.k.a. the building which used to be the headquarters of Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Neither of these sections is your average, run-of-the-mill pre-Hispanic museum. Once again, Mexican creativity is at its museographic best!

A snapshot in time of the architecture of a pre-Hispanic pyramid, an early Spanish Franciscan church and school, and a modern-day apartment building, forming the scenery of the Plaza of the Three Cultures

Stunning architecturally, with the dramatic backdrop of the Plaza of the Three Cultures (given that name because of the three phases making up the rich heritage of the zone: (1) the pre-Columbian ceremonial center, (2) the viceregal church and remains of the first school build for native Indians in New Spain, and (3) the modern-day high-rise apartments, once exemplary architecture, today left in squalid, tenement-like conditions), the displays showcase approximately 350 pieces culled from over 2,500 in total, highlighting the religious, political, social and commercial aspects of the people who inhabited Tlatelolco at its height.

A glimpse of the impressive displays inside the museum which showcases artifacts discovered duirng 50 years of excavations of the site.

Tlatelolco, established around 1337, was an impressive market site, which reached its splendor between 1465 and 1519. Hernan Cortes wrote a descriptive account to the King of Spain, narrating the vast selection of wares traded at the open-air market, as well as the organizational structure, thus we have a good idea of how the locals lived there. Tlatelolco was also the last strong-hold against the Spanish conquistadors, since this is where Cuauhtemoc was taken prisoner in 1521, thereby establishing the official date of Mexico’s conquest (take note that since part of Yucatan wasn’t conquered until the 18th century, 1521 is more of a symbolic, and somewhat arbitrary date, but don’t get me started on that topic). Plus, this is where the Spanish evangelists set up a school for locals, and where the Florentine and Badiano Codices were written. The area was also the site of two more recent tragedies – the student uprisings of 1968 where innumerable innocent people were slaughtered, and the earthquake of 1985, where even more people lost their lives. Tlatelolco is steeped in tragic history!

An anthropomorphic vessel with an unusual head-lid found in a dig at Tlatelolco.

The spick-and-span, state-of-the-art museum reflects changing times – providing lots of interactive displays (Ipads, computers and bar codes for the electronically savvy, who chose to scan signs for information), as well as a computer room.

One of several showcases exhibiting the use of natural dyes, part of the permanent exhibit on the 1st floor of the CCUT - be sure not to miss this fascinating section.

A personal collection of pre-Hispanic ceramics and other artifacts amassed over close to four decades by a prominent immigrant family (1942-1984), the Stavenhagen Collection can be easily skipped over, since it is hidden away on the second floor of the CUUT. This corpus, on public display for the first time ever, is unequaled by anything I have seen (except, obviously, the National Museum of Anthropology).  It is composed of 560 stunning pieces, objects of art, hand-picked from an amazing accumulation of approximately 3 thousand pieces of hand-crafted earthenware and carved stone, dating back thousands of years, evidence of the stupendous workmanship of the Amerindian cultures of Mexico.

An impeccable example of the Teotihuacan symbol for time is emblazoned on this hand-carved stone, part of the Stavenhagen Collection, which is on display to the general public for the first time. Refugees of WWII, the Stavenhagens started collecting pre-Hispanic pieces when they arrived to Mexico. The family recently donated their acquisitions to the UNAM, the country's National University.


Apparently so extensive, the family transferred part of its private repertory to the Museum of Xalapa and to the Museum of Colima years ago. Rodolfo Stavenhagen donated part of the family’s legacy to the UNAM (Mexico’s National University), which have been classified by general topics (rather than by the more conventional geographic and chronological criteria) ranging from daily life, love, maternity, bodily decoration, death, early man’s relationship with animals, etc. Although many of these pieces are unprovenanced, the majority belonging to the Mezcala, Maya, Mexica and Zapotec cultures.

This ceramic hairless (and often toothless) Mexican dog was typically found in ancient funeral offerings, since natives believed it led the deceased on their journey to the underworld. The Xoloitzcuintle recently regained its American Kennel Club recognition, making it a potential dog show breed. The worldwide population of Xolols is estimated to be around 30,000.

The wait for this site was exaggeratedly long –  given that it was originally envisioned for the mid 60s but never materialized.  However, the outcome of the laudable collaborative effort of the two giant Mexican cultural institutions (the UNAM and the INAH – the National Institute of Anthropology and History) is fantastic! Aside from providing a dignified abode for pieces which were in storage for decades, it breathes life into the often overlooked site of Tlatelolco Hopefully more museums of this stature will continue to pop up. This is a new “must” on my list of basic sites for tourists and residents alike! Visit or re-visit Tlatelolco – you won’t be disappointed!

Another spectacular artifact showing the quality craftsmanship of the native populations who inhabited Central Mexico prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. This museum is a must for tourists and residents alike!

Note: The museum is not easy maneuver. The difficulty lies in the fact that there are several exhibits spread between two separate buildings, with an absence of signs  – makes it easy to miss important collections.  Hopefully, this is an oversight that will be remedied with time.

Two images from the Mezcala culture of Mesoamerica. Every item on display has been hand picked and is exceptional in quality.

The Tlatelolco Museum (Museo de Tlatelolco) is open Tuesday through Sunday; 10am to 6pm; entrance fee is $20 pesos; Ricardo Flores Magón 1, Nonoalco-Tlatelolco.

 

King Tut Visiting Downtown Mexico City

The UNAM's Palace of Autonomy hosting the temporary exhibit of King Tutankhamen

King Tutankhamen is visiting Mexico City! Over 200 reproductions of artifacts found in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter are on display in a temporary exhibit entitled “Tutankhamen: The Tomb, The Gold and The Pharaoh’s Curse,” at the Palacio de Autonomia (a UNAM-run museum site tucked away in a well conserved 19th century neo-classical building).

King Tut in all his glory

Copies of original objects housed in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo aim to duplicate the splendors of King Tut’s tomb. The funeral rituals, process of mummification and customs of ancient Egypt have little in common with pre-Hispanic Mexico. King Tut is believed to have ruled Egypt from 1334 to 1325 B.C. – way before the Mexica’s arrived to the swamplands of downtown Mexico, where the exhibition is housed. The treasures seem foreign, somewhat forced and out-of-place at first, until one passes through the first introductory section and becomes involved in the ambiance of the Pharaoh’s burial setting.

Reproduction of a burial found in King Tut's tomb

Capturing the extravagance of the mortuary chamber of King Tut, located in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Luxor, is no easy task. Although some of the artifacts are noticeable copies, the majority are exceptionally well-crafted, making using the same techniques and material – including gold – as the original ones.

A sampling of exquisite jewelry which was found in King Tut's tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter

Unlike the previous mega-hits of “Pharaoh: The Sun Cult in Ancient Egypt” Exhibit or “Isis and the Feathered Serpent” both record-breaking expositions housed in the National Museum of Anthropology a few years back – with an obligatory 2-3 hour wait to get in), this exhibit is easily accessible and aims to combine art and entertainment, reproducing not only the wonder of a royal Egyptian burial but fostering mystique which shrouded the discovery itself.

A partial view of the King Tut exhibit on temporary display downtown Mexico City

The legend of the evil spell cast on the early explorers, intertwined with the revelation of the riches of the boy king itself is so deeply embedded in history, that it is a standard scenes in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum! Needless to say, there was no curse. Archaeologist Howard Carter, who unearthed the cache, lived till the ripe old age of 65 (in the 20s that was considered old age!), surviving 17 years after his find.

The reproductions were made with painstaking care, using similar materials and techniques as the originals, in attempts to re-create the details of the objects found in King Tut's tomb

Do not expect a dry, scientific, conventional display – this is more of a trip back in time, a-la-Disney, with a play of light and sound to further dramatize the setting and the magic associated with the site. Yet, the exhibit is based on fact, including an explanation of techniques of mummification, and a representative selection of mortuary masks, the sarcophagus, a throne, jewelry, a royal diadem, a funeral Canopus vessel, and much more.

The gilded wall with detailed Egyptian hieroglyphs and decorations

The exhibit is small, divided into four main rooms: the first focuses on religion, funeral rites and the process of mummification used in ancient Egypt; the second highlights several of the most outstanding troves of the tomb including guardian statues, the God Anubis, and a golden casket; the third hall showcases the four monumental gold reliquaries which protected the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus, and the sarcophagus itself; and the last room is a recreation of King Tut’s tomb with a reproduction of the sarcophagus and coffin which housed Tutankhamen’s mummified body.

Life-sized proportions give the exhibit a dramatic, theater-like sense

Somewhat expensive for the average Mexican museum ticket ($80 pesos), this reflects a noticeable trend in ticket price-hikes at UNAM-affiliated exhibits (San Ildefonso is another example of this), which is unfortunate, since it is just one more excuse for people not to visit the many cultural offerings of the city – the ticket costs more that the daily minimum wage in Mexico City – certainly unfordable for the average Mexican household. However, for those who will never have the opportunity to travel to Luxor to see the original tomb or Cairo to witness King Tut’s mask or the treasures of the Pharaoh’s burial, this the second best!

For those who won't have the opportunity to visit the real thing in Egypt, this is the second best!

By the way, the income from ticket sales are earmarked for university scholarships according to Rafael Moreno Valle, chairman of the UNAM Foundation, organizer of the exhibit. The Tutankhamen Exhibit is in the Palace of Autonomy (Palacio de la Autonomia de la UNAM) which is open every day of the week, Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm, Sunday 10 am to 4 pm; entrance fee to this temporary exhibit is $80 pesos; Lic. Primo de Verdad 2 (next to the Templo Mayor, access from Moneda Street).

King Tut's famous funeral mask, stunningly reproduced

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Day of the Dead is for the Living!

Day of the Dead festivities are so unique in Mexico that UNESCO has deemed them Intangible Cultural Heritage!

Day of the Dead festivities are so unique in Mexico that UNESCO declared this holiday “Intangible Cultural Heritage” in 2003 (and inscribed it in 2008).  A glimpse into this colorful blending of pre-Hispanic ritual with European religion provides an insight as to how Mexican’s view not only death but also life!

This year's altar at the Dolores Olmedo Museum, dedicated to Olmedo and her mother Maria Patiño Suarez

Día de los Muertos is a special period where families are unite with their deceased loved ones.  It is an annual window of opportunity, lasting 24 hours for deceased children on November 1st (actually beginning at midnight on October 31st and referred to as All Saint’s Day by the Catholic Church) and 24 hours for deceased adults on November 2nd (All Soul’s Day), when it is believed that all the spirits of departed return to Earth for a visit home.

Festive paper mache skeletons playing marimba music!

Personalized altars or ofrendas are prepared with much care and thought to welcome them back.  The most common elements include the fragrant cempasuchtil -orange marigold flowers-  and vibrant red cockscomb, as well as copal incense to purify the altar and attract the returning souls.  Candles light the path for the animas to these offerings; religious images (pictures of saints, Virgins, etc.) and crosses incorporate Christian elements; tequila, cigarettes and the favorite foods (such as mole, a typical dish often served at parties) of the succumbed are set out for the more sophisticated adult tastes, whereas toys and candies are placed on the altars to lure children home.

Candies and toys are set out to allure young children back home

Water and salt are musts for the traditional ofrenda (but often forgotten in more modern settings).  Photos or drawings of the deceased and whimsical sugar skulls complete with humorous poems are combined with seasonal orange-blossom-infused Day of the Dead bread topped with crossbones, making the decoration, and personality, of each altar unique – whether it be humble and makeshift or profuse and elaborate – but always a tribute to those no longer inhabiting our realm.

Festivities at Frida Kahlo's Blue House Museum. This Ofrenda is dedicates to Frida (whose image is to the left in the first arch) and Diego (to the far right in the last arch)

Ancient pre-Hispanic tradition blends well with popular culture.  Death was an integral part of life in Mesoamerican cultures.  Miccailhutontli (Celebration of the Dead) and Huey Miccaihuilt were two of but many festivities reported by Spanish chroniclers on their arrival to the New World.  According to XVI century Spanish Monk Diego de Duran, the actual dates dedicated to the dead were moved by the evangelists to coincide with the Christian calendar, thus launching what continues today to be a unique, syncretic holiday.

This offering, housed in the Anahuacalli Museum, honors deceased Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata!

It is no coincidence that Day of the Dead falls at the end of the agricultural cycle.  Halloween, celebrated the day before, rooted in the ancient traditions of the Celtic Druids (Samhain) also holds that spirits return in this season, marking the start of a fallow period of the Earth, when the land is put to rest.  The main difference between these two holidays, both stemming from ancient native agricultural societies, is that Halloween is laced with fear and concern over the returning malevolent spirits (hence the costumes to confuse and trick the spirits), whereas Día de los Muertos is a joyful celebration, viewed more as a time for family reunion.

Mexican comedian and movie star Cantinflas (Mario Moreno) is honored in this altar in the building which housed the first printing press in all of the Americas

Rather than solemn or gloomy, the bright colors and fragrant aromas set the scene,helping guide the deceased spirits home or back to the cemeteries where they were laid to rest, which is why the graveyards are common partying sites.  Thus the living reminisce to the tune of local music, alcoholic beverages, abundant repast, making the annual gathering one of joy and happiness rather than sadness and sorrow.

Catrina skeletons immortalized in a Diego Rivera Mural, alluding to Jose Guadalupe Posada's controvertial political cartoons which mocked the upper class Porifirian crust

Every year the spaces dedicated to public alters change, but the colorful festivities, general tone of joy, and deeply rooted elements remain constant.  Happy Day of the Dead!

A simple, yet elegant, ofrenda in a colonial building in downtown Mexico City

 

Ready to Go and Nowhere to Go?

The very modern Terminal 2 counter area at the Mexico City Benito Juarez International Airport

So there you are, stuck at the Mexico City “Benito Juarez” Airport Terminal 2, killing time. With the new regulations requiring international travelers to arrive at the airport two hours ahead of time, you’ve got a long wait until you catch your flight. You’re already checked in and have wandered around, window shopping at the gift shops lining the passageways, leafing through the books and magazines at the newsstands (who really cares about Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, anyway?), have already grabbed a double espresso while perusing the fast food shops, which by the way, provide an astonishing array of appetizing options at a decent price – I am referring to the the food court outside the security gate with its vast assortment of fresh fruit platters, Mexican antojitos, the requisite Starbucks, delicious pastry shops, as well as Chinese, Japanese and American fare, to name just a few options, and I am NOT being facetious. What the food court lacks in decor, it makes up for in quality, variety, freshness and value.

Entrance to the INAH Museum across from security gate entrance

You are just about ready to go through the security check point, when, wait a minute … what is that that you see out of the corner of you eye? A museum?  A museum in the middle of the airport?  Yes, a museum!  As of 2008, briefly after Terminal 2 was inaugurated, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (better known as the “INAH,” an abbreviation of el Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Spanish), in collaboration with airport authorities, has etched out an oasis, offering temporary exhibits on Mexico’s pre-hispanic cultures, thus, providing weary local and international travelers, as well as those waiting to pick up passengers, a refreshing cultural option.

Reproductions of Paquime ceramics from Chihuahua, Mexico

The 650 square meter exposition center is open 24-7, 365 days a year, displaying mainly, though not exclusively, high quality reproductions of early cultural artifacts, a few original pieces, and a series of excellent photographs. If not told, the average viewer could probably not distinguish between an original pre-hispanic piece and a well-made copy.  As a matter of fact, there are plenty of reproductions filling the halls of the National Museum of Anthropology, all clearly marked, yet often undetected by the untrained eye!  The displays in Terminal 2 change regularly, approximately every 6 months, an antidote for the doldrums of the well-seasoned traveler, and a refreshing alternative for the typical non-museum goer or tourist who is visiting Mexico to learn more about its early history.

Travelers enjoying the temporary photo display detailing pre-hispanic ceremonial centers around Mexico

The INAH’s efforts are to be lauded.  All the exhibits I have seen, and there have been many, are well organized and informative, plus easy to understand even for those unfamiliar with pre-hispanic cultures. The current exhibit, entitled “Mexico, Territorio Arqueológico,” is particularly well structured, and for travelers who have lots of time on their hands, it provides a good alternative to balancing a computer or book on their laps after checking in their luggage.

Pieces typical of Teotihuacan pottery (Pre-classical, Central Mexico)

As a matter of fact, you might consider arriving to the airport 15 minutes early to be sure to have time to check out the exhibit!  The INAH Museum is easily accessible, opposite the security check point entry at Terminal 2, with an EDUCAL Book Store within view for those whose interests are whetted, with an unusually well-stocked collection of books on Mesoamerican culture and Mexican history, making the arduous wait for your flight somewhat more bearable.

Newly assigned divisions of Mesoamerica color-coded onto a modern-day map of Mexico

 

What do Birds, Olmec Heads and 6 Ancient Cities Have in Common?

So what do birds, colossal Olmec heads and 6 ancient cities have in common?  Well … these three topics are themes for separate temporary exhibits currently on display at the National Museum of Anthropology.

   

The first is on feather art … that’s right – feather art, a native handicraft traditional dating back to pre-Hispanic times. The exhibit “Alas: El vuelo de las imágenes del mundo indigena,” part of a two-museum display (the other exhibit, hosted in the MUNAL, Mexico’s National Museum of Art downtown on Tacuba Street,  has unfortunately closed) showcasing how this highly valued, yet today forgotten, natural material was incorporated into textiles, paintings and decorative arts in popular cultures, as well as the importance of birds (in music, mythology, religion, dance, costumes and in oral tradition) in Mexican indigenous cultures.

 

The significance of birds is reflected in pieces made by close to forty different indigenous groups.  The extensive display illustrates how “amanteca” or feather art has yet to lose its relevance despite effort of the Spanish viceroyalty, remaining, in fact alive and pertinent, as evidenced by this sampling of crafts.

     

A second temporary exhibit, the longest running of the three at the National Museum of Anthropology, is entitled “Six Ancient Cities of Mesoamerica,” which projects the relationship between the peoples of different corners of Mesoamerica and their environments. Over 400 pieces are being shown – some for the first time ever and others borrowed from 17 distinct public and private museum collections. The goal of this exhibit is to trace the similarities and differences of six urban nuclei, using the writing systems, economic development, religious and ideological beliefs, and monumental architecture and art (ceramics, stone carvings, jewelry, masks, etc.) as a point of departure.  The similarities and differences are striking!

The third, most recently opened exhibit, is a fabulous collection of Olmec objects found along the Gulf Coast of Mexico.  Indeed, the museum itself houses an impressive selection of artifacts from the oldest civilization in Mexico (frequently referred to as the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica, however, more recent anthropological theories are reconsidering it as the “sister culture,” supporting the idea that several groups emerged simultaneously yet independently, seeing as how NOT all cultures of Mesoamerica can trace their origins back to this specific ancient civilization) in its permanent collection, yet this grouping is coming from an exhibit which was hosted at the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco under the heading: Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico.

 

The 106 pieces on display have been culled from collections belonging to the Anthropology Museums of          Xalapa and Merida among others, and include two colossal heads (which are referred to as Head Number 5 and  Head Number 9 from San Lorenzo).  The sheer fact that these artifacts date back to the second millennium BC, yes – the second millennium before Christ! – weighing in at a hefty 4 and 6 tons respectively, make them obligatory viewing. (By the way, over 600 thousand people visited the exhibit in California, at $25 US dollars a pop, so how can a local visitor bypass the opportunity to see this exhibit  in Mexico City for roughly  $4.00 US (depending on the fluctuating peso-dollar parity rate) – that’s $51 Mexican pesos, with no waiting lines either!!)

I personally cannot remember a time when the museum had so much going on simultaneously. Obviously, each of these exhibits requires the collaboration and coordination of too many experts to list here, but in reference to my previous post – the fact that Director Diana Magaloni has been spearheading the initiative to bring quality exhibits back to the Anthropology Museum, and is sponsoring all sorts of educational forums on topics related to these shows, you can expect to see even more great exhibits and talks at this emblematic museum.  Her efforts are not going unnoticed.  Kudos to Magaloni!

 

National Museum of Anthropology Maven

With the recent naming of Diana Magaloni Kerpel as direct to the National Museum of Anthropology, this emblematic museum is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. Despite a severely restricted budget (what else is new?), Dr. Magaloni is successfully recovering the original philosophy of this institution by hosting numerous colloquials, conferences, workshops and talks on both traditional and novel topics (more on this in my upcoming blogs), and has painstakingly prepared new exhibits, culling from the extensive inventory of the INAH (Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History) and borrowing from friendly museums nationwide. By promoting an uncommon, yet urgent and refreshing attitude of international collaboration, she has bolstered educational programs and promoted exciting new temporary exhibits. Her approach is unusual and decisive for what has gradually become a stodgy, pedantic institution. Perhaps her fearless attitude of risk-taking, and more global perspective (she did graduate work at Yale University) gives her a startlingly open mindset for a museum director, which will hopefully put the Anthropology Museum back on the international map as a groundbreaking institution of worldwide acclaim.

I will explore the three exhibits currently at the Anthropology Museum and a few recent conferences sponsored under the tutelage of Dr. Magaloni in my next blog.