Perhaps this is more of an indictment of the American education system, but I knew very little about the Aztecs before I went to to the Templo Mayor Museum. On the one hand, they were a very notorious and brutal culture that was famous for human sacrifices and pyramids that aren’t in Egypt, but on the other hand it’s understandable that my middle school history teacher didn’t want to talk to a group of 14 year olds about cutting someone’s chest open with a sharp rock. Thus the crux of detailed education, I suppose.
Outside the Museum
The large museum in downtown Mexico City is filled with ritual artifacts, the remains of those sacrificed, artwork, and of course creepy statues.
And those creepy statues began outside the front door of the museum.
I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning here, but I failed to see it. I feel that describes my relationship with art pretty well.
Inside the museum, there was an excavation area where they had found remains of an old Aztec city. (Yes, I’m wearing running shoes and a green Jansport backpack. You’ve won this round of “Spot the American”.)
The statues were detailed and depicted things that would be sure to give any outsider nightmares. What says “Welcome” more than a snake?
There were other, less-disturbing things found there as well.
And then I got artsy with my camera. It’s not that I was bored. I wanted to capture the texture of the walls because all of them were this rough texture. So I set my aperture wide, focused on a bit of the wall, and hoped for the best.
Scattered throughout the site were these small bridges which made me I don’t think would not have fit in during Aztec times. I was having flashbacks to when I was in Korea. #Eddie2Tall4AztecCivilization
However, fun fact, being white wouldn’t have been a large issue. There was plenty of evidence to suggest that the Spanish were not the first people to come into contact with the Aztecs. Many of their religious texts describe their savior as being a white man with a huge beard. This also helps to explain why they welcomed the Spanish with open arms, even though the Spanish had very bad intentions.
Inside the Templo Mayor Museum
The outside area is a wonderful large-scale representation of what the city used to look like, but it was also sort of boring from a photo perspective. So we went inside the museum. There, they had statues that they’d replicated and repainted to what they might have looked like during Aztec times. They used a lot of red, light blue, yellow, and grey.
Some of them even had side-by-side comparisons of what they looked like now versus what they probably looked like back then.
Not all of it was artwork, though. There were several examples of pottery and small statues that had meaning but weren’t god-level statues.
Then, rather unexpectedly, we got into the human sacrifice section of the museum, a practice for which the Aztecs were known. The first thing we saw was a death mask. This was a rather unadorned example, but was creepy nevertheless (apologies for the slight blur to this one). To me, it’s creepy because there is no expression, no hint at who it was. There’s a theory that the reason masks (a la Jason’s hockey mask) are creepy is because they offer no visual clues to the person wearing them. We, as humans, cannot tell if someone wearing a mask is going in for a friendly hug or a murder-stabby sort of hug. And this death mask also offers no clues, and therefore scared the living bejesus out of me.
But wait, it gets weirder!
This was a sharp knife made from flint that was used in a human sacrifice (also called a “tecpatl”). It was common for them to create a face on the blade with the sharp edge being the nose. They then used the sharp rock to cut out the heart of the human sacrifice in order to ‘bring blessings to the people’.
According to Wikipedia, the extent of human sacrifice is debated. But in the museum, they’d found over 100 sacrificial offerings so far. And while not all contained human remains, many of them contained more than one.
Finally, there was a room full of God statues. I had a photo (that I loved) of the God of Death, but it didn’t turn out. I suppose now is a good time to come clean that I was having a hard time shooting in the low-light of the museum.
Yes, this photo is a little blurry. I’m not particularly proud of it, but it’s my best one of the gods. I feel that leaving out the gods entirely would be doing the Templo Mayor a huge disservice.
After this, we headed back to our hotel in Zona Rosa to drop some stuff off and found a place nearby where we could get beer and food. In an attempt to end this on a lighter note, this was the menu we found at the restaurant. If you can tell me what it means then you win a prize: