The one in Mexico City, I mean; National Museum of Anthropology en Inglés. They arranged a walk-through for us after closing time and let us take pictures; here are a few. Warning: kind of sad.

At Mexico’s Museo Nacional de Antropología

The artifacts spanned Mesoamerica: Mayans, Mixtecs, Toltecs, Aztecs. At one point I got interested in these times and places and read dozens of books. The problem was, the histories were full of gloom and empty of celebration; the writers were either telling tragic stories of societal collapse and European oppression, or alternatively seemed to have come to dislike their subjects.

At Mexico’s Museo Nacional de Antropología

These figures do not seem the work of happy people.

At Mexico’s Museo Nacional de Antropología
· · ·
At Mexico’s Museo Nacional de Antropología

Casting my mind back, these are the two books that burn brightest in memory: Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, by Ronald Wright, and The Conquest of New Spain, by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, an eyewitness account of the fall of the Aztecs by one of Cortes’ henchmen. Both are astounding works; neither is happy.

The museum contained much that was impressive. The only things that made me smile were abstract decorations on earthenware, and finally, a scrap of cloth which had somehow survived since pre-Columbian times.

At Mexico’s Museo Nacional de Antropología
· · ·
At Mexico’s Museo Nacional de Antropología

This last seemed entirely a miracle to me; the weaving was very fine indeed, and I felt the work of a long-dead hand reaching to me cross the centuries more than in all the images of anguished gods and excruciated slaves.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Richard Wills (Aug 18 2011, at 06:32)

AZTEC by Gary Jennings - pub. 1980

A few weeks ago I found this interesting book at a local bookstore. It is a fictional work covering the end of the Aztec Empire from the perspective of an Aztec scholar.

I recommend it for the reader who wants a personall history of the catastrophe.

[link]

From: EricH (Aug 18 2011, at 10:25)

I dunno ... these critters from an archaeological museum in Oaxaca seem kinda cheerful:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/offby1/4464155272/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/offby1/4463377087/

[link]

From: Doug Cutting (Aug 18 2011, at 11:36)

I don't know that these figures were meant to express sadness. Maybe, maybe not.

If you're still in Mexico, don't miss Diego Rivera's "Man, Controller of the Universe" at the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

[link]

From: Tim Hodgson (Aug 18 2011, at 13:17)

Tim, linking this and the recent SF thread, you might enjoy Ronald Wright's 'A Scientific Romance', a Wellesian time-travel story set in present and future Britain. His description of the ruins of Canary Wharf is quite memorable!

[link]

From: len (Aug 19 2011, at 18:54)

The world's greatest farmers in their time (particularly compared to the Europeans) and consistently civilization after civilization, they sacrificed enemies and let blood? Why?

I am amazed at what persists for millenia, blood letting, the means by which culture does that and what seems so hard to keep by the same means: peace.

[link]

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