Continued from Templo 2
The Museum building offers a welcome cool atmosphere after the baking sun.
Audio sets are available for rent. We didn’t use them, but they will be
invaluable to visitors unable to understand the Spanish-only descriptions in
this museum. The museum has two things I really appreciate: a well-marked
recommended route that guides you through the museum and allow you to see all
exhibitions without having to dash to and fro, backtrack wondering whether you
are missing something important; and descriptions large enough to easily read
from a comfortable distance without having to rub your nose against the wall.
The museum covers much more than just the excavations of the Templo Mayor,
although the emphasis is naturally on the local findings. The star attractions
are the huge round stone of Coyolxauhqui and the statues of the eagle warriors.
Close to the entrance is a large model of what the total temple complex must
have looked like -- there were many other temples in addition to the Templo
Mayor. However, the Templo Mayor towered over all and small figures emphasize
its size compared to humans as well. Another model shows a cutaway of the
Templo Mayor -- after seeing this model it is much easier to understand the
archaeological site outside.
Other halls cover the daily life of the Aztecs according to themes such as
agriculture, fauna and flora, trade -- they understood globalization even though
their world was much smaller -- and several dealing with religious aspects such as rituals, burial and the individual gods.
The most important god to the Mexicas was Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, who also provided blood to the Sun. The latter function required human sacrifices, which kept the Aztec military busy and in control of the empire. One of the shrines on top of the large pyramid of the Templo Mayor was dedicated to this god and his thirst for blood.
In Mexica mythology, Coatlicue was the earth and her children were the stars, the moon (the god Coyolxauhqui) and the sun (none other than Huitzilopochtli himself). However, prior to the sun’s birth, the moon became jealous and incited her brothers the stars to kill their mother and the child in her womb. However, before Jerry Springer could sort it all out, the sun was born fully armed for war and promptly beheaded the Moon and watch her body being
dismembered by every twist and turn of it rolling down the mountain. This
dismemberment of the moon can be observed during every lunar month or if time is
pressing simply look at the carvings on the 8 ton, 3.25'' diameter round stone of Coyolxauhqui.
It was the finding of this stone in 1978, which resulted in the excavation of
the Templo Mayor and the opening of this very fine museum about a decade later.
Results 1-6of 6 Reviews
Mexico City, Mexico
May 7, 2003
From journal Mexico City well balanced: two museums, four lunches
Continued from Temple 1
It was never the intention that any part of the Temple Mayor would ever be
seen again and the zealous had success for almost half a millennium. However, in
1978, diggings to install electrical cables led to the discovery of a large round stone carving of the dismembered body of the goddess Coyolxauhqui. Further
archaeological excavations followed and resulted in the uncovering of parts of
the original Templo Mayor. It has long been known that the pyramids, on top of
which the temples were built, were frequently enlarged by adding new layers to
the existing ones and excavations at this site revealed the remains of seven
stages of construction.
The first part of the museum is these mostly uncovered archaeological
excavations -- even in spring, the sun baked down mercilessly. Special elevated
walkways lead the visitor through the site with explanations (in Spanish only)
at the more important discoveries. Most of the large stone snakes are copies,
with the originals inside the museum to protect the stone from pollution.
The first temple was constructed around 1325, but is still buried underneath
the second stage, which escaped most of the violent destruction of the five
layers above it and is virtually intact. On the right-hand side is the temple to
the god of war: here a small black stone can be seen which was used during the
ceremonies surrounding human sacrifice. Inside the museum is a display of the
obsidian knives that were used to cut out the beating hearts of human
sacrifices. Afterwards, the dead bodies were thrown down the pyramids. At the
left-hand side of the pyramid -- the side of the god of rain and water -- a
chacmool used for more peaceful offerings can be seen. Also note the sloping of
what should have been horizontal surfaces -- a consequence of the soft
foundations of the island, which led to the sinking of the pyramid over time.
Of the newer pyramids, little remained apart from a few of the original steps, which resemble walls as the dirt between them had been removed. Of the most recent pyramid, the one seen by the conquistadors, only the lower levels
remained, including a couple of large stone snakes, frogs, and snaked heads.
The last parts of the excavations are mercifully under cover -- it covers the
quarters of the eagle warriors. Some exquisite wall decorations were preserved. Before entering the museum building, note the surrounding "newer" buildings.
Construction of the enormous Mexican Cathedral started in 1525 and it is
therefore not much older than the final stage of the destroyed temple. Also note
the buildings that were literally cracked open by earthquakes -- a natural
consequence of the drying out of the lake bed on which modern Mexico City was
Continue to Templo 3
On several previous visits to the Historical Center, I missed out on visiting
this major Museum. However, this time around, I was determined to finally see the excavations and made a visit to the Museum my primary purpose of going to the Center.
The Museo Templo Mayor (Great Temple) is located next to the Zócalo (Main
Plaza) between the Office of the President and the Cathedral. The Spanish
conquistadors made it a policy to build churches on or right next to the
indigenous religious sites and the massive Mexican Metropolitan Cathedral, Latin
America’s largest, was no exception.
Mexico City, or Tenochtitlán as it was then known, made an awesome
impression on the Spanish conquistadors who first saw the capital of the Aztec
Empire in 1518. It was a city build on islands in a large lake. It was as large
as the largest European city and its splendor exceeded much of what was known on
the old Continent.
As in Spain, religion played a dominant role in the Aztec Empire and it
should have been no surprise to the Spanish that the largest constructions in
the city were temples to the various gods. None was larger or more important
than the Templo Mayor (Great Temple) dedicated to the gods Tlaloc (rain and
water) and Huitzilopochtli (war). Twin shrines were built on top of a huge
pyramid, which in its final incarnation measured 45m high with a base of 76m by
81m. (In contrast, the Metropolitan Cathedral is 60m high).
The pyramid and temples were painted predominantly white, although it was soon confirmed that some of the red marks were indeed the blood of human offerings. This was the Hill of the Serpent, the most sacred of Aztec sites and the place where around 1325, an eagle was seen perched on a cactus devouring a snake -- glance at the Mexican flag for a picture telling more than a thousand words -- which was the sign that the new Aztec city must be founded here.
The conquistadors were disgusted with the human offerings, but more than
enchanted by the obvious wealth of the city, and they set out to conqueror and loot the Aztec Empire. It is a history of intrigue, deceit, and dastardly deeds, which led to the end of the Aztec Empire and the attempted destruction of all its religious symbols.
The museum consists of two distinct parts: an outdoor archaeological site of
excavations and a museum building exhibiting the findings at the site, as well as Aztec life in general.
Entry is NM$ 37 -- a sign claims that correct change is needed and change
cannot be given to people paying with a Peso 50 note! Remember to keep the
ticket at hand as you need to show it again when moving from the archaeological
site into the museum building.
Open: Tuesday through Sunday 9am-6pm
Continue to Templo 2
Mexico city, Mexico
May 9, 2006
From journal Templo Mayor
May 8, 2006
From journal Mexico City, This Small Little Town