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National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

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Considered one of the world's finest archaeological museums, the Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Anthropological Museum) in Mexico City houses a vast collection of artifacts in 23 exhibition halls. Its most famous exhibit is the Aztec sun stone, a cosmological calendar.


The Museo Nacional de Antropología opened in 1971, housed in a fine new building designed by Architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez.

What to See

The ground floor focuses on the native cultures and societies of Mexico before the Spanish conquest. The famous Aztec sun stone is only a small part of the fantastic collection of artwork from the indigenous population of Mexico.

Each room displays artifacts from a particular geographic region or culture — the Sala Teotihuacána, Sala Tolteca, Sala Oaxaca, and so on. Explanatory labels have been recently updated, some with English translations.

The Aztec Sun Stone (Piedra del Sol) is in Room 7 (Sala Mexica) of the museum. The 12-foot, 25-ton intricately carved basalt slab describing Aztec life is one of Mexico's most famous symbols. The stone was carved in the late 1400s; it was discovered buried beneath the Zócalo in 1790. It was originally thought to be a calendar, and for a brief time, a sacrificial altar.

In the stone's center is the sun god Tonatiuh. The rest of the carvings illustrate Aztec cosmology — the Aztecs believed that prior to their existence, the world had gone through four periods ("suns") of creation and destruction. Four square panels surrounding the center image represent these four worlds and their destruction (by jaguars, wind, firestorms, and water, respectively). The ring around the panels is filled with symbols representing the 20 days of the Aztec month. Finally, two snakes form an outer ring and point to a date, 1011 AD, when the fifth sun (the Aztecs' current world) was created.

Other major highlights include a replica of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma's feathered headdress (the original is in Vienna); a stela from Tula, near Mexico City; massive Olmec heads from Veracruz; and vivid reproductions of Maya murals in a reconstructed temple.

Don't miss the magnificent Mayan tomb of 8th-century ruler Pacal, which was discovered at Palenque. The perfectly preserved skeleton lies in an immense stone chamber, and the stairwell walls leading to it are beautifully decorated with bas-relief scenes of the underworld. Pacal's jade death mask is also on display nearby.

Upstairs, the museum provides information about how the descendents of these cultures live today. The nine rooms contain ethnographic displays of current indigenous peoples, including maps, photographs, household objects, folk art, clothing, and religious articles.

Getting There

The National Museum of Anthropology is located on avenida Paseo de la Reforma and calzada Gandhi, in colonia Chapultepec Polanco, Mexico City. Avenida Paseo de la Reforma leads to the Museum. The nearest subway stations are Auditorio and Chapultepec.

Quick Facts on National Museum of Anthropology

Site Information
Names:Museo Nacional de Antropologia; National Anthropological Museum; National Museum of Anthropology; National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
City:Mexico City
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Mexico City, Mexico
Coordinates:19.425923° N, 99.185686° W  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of National Museum of Anthropology

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  1. Official Website
  2. Fodor's Mexico 2007

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Article Info

Title:National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:01/28/2011
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/mexico/mexico-city-archaeological-museum/mexico/mexico-city-archaeological-museum">National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City</a>