About Mexico National Museum of Anthropology
El Museo Nacional de Antropología (Mexico National Museum of Anthropology) is a world-class museum, and one of the best places to start understanding Mexico’s long and complex indigenous history, covering early Mesoamerican, Toltec, Mayan and Aztec civilisations.
History of MNA
The core collections of the museum were first given to the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico in the late 18th century, under orders of the Viceroy. Subsequently, a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ was set up, followed by an autonomous National Mexican Museum in 1825. As the collections grew, the museum had to divide its collections – in December 1940, for example, historic collections were moved to Chapultepec Castle to form the modern day Museo Nacional de Historia.
The museum as it stands now was constructed between 1963-4: combining modern architecture with extensive gardens and the famous concrete umbrella in the centre of the museum, it remains a famous landmark within Mexico.
The museum is widely regarded as a national treasure, and it houses extensive collections of pre-Columbian objects: most famously, perhaps, the Piedra del Sol (sun stone), a religious calendar which depicts the five ages of humanity according to Aztec beliefs. Other highlights include jade masks of Zapotec gods, a full scale replica of the tomb of King Pakal found at Palenque, and a number of pieces excavated at Chichen Itza, so be sure to stop here if you’re planning on visiting Aztec and Mayan sites later on your trip.
In the grounds of the museum, there are also various replicas of now-lost temples and tombs, including a remarkable replica of the tomb of King Pakal at Palenque.
The museum is extremely large, and it’s the most visited museum in Mexico: it contains far more than a day’s worth of material, so pace yourself and/or choose to visit highlights if you’re strapped for time. Luckily, the museum is clearly and logically laid out: the 12 rooms on the ground floor detail pre-Hispanic Mexico, whilst the upper floors look at how contemporary and indigenous cultures interact. Guided tours are also available.
The museum is closed on Mondays and gets extremely busy with domestic tourists at weekends, so they’re best avoided if you have the option to visit in the week instead.
Getting to the MNA
The museum is located in the Bosque de Chapultepec, north of Avenida Paseo de la Reforma. The nearest metro stop is Auditorio (Orange line 7), and plenty of buses stop on Paseo de la Reforma. The entrance to the museum is nestled in the forest, and there’s plenty going on in the area outside if you fancy a break for lunch.
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