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Mexpert's Blog

Travel news and information on Mexico from Mexico.

Tag Archives: archaeology

Standing tall: this six-foot pair of feet served as a column base in pre-Hispanic Mexico

Children of the Plumed Serpent, a major exhibit of pre-Hispanic artifacts, opened this week in Los Angeles. More than five centuries old, the 200 pieces on show are on loan from collections around the world, including the UK, Austria, Canada, Germany, the US and Mexico.

Among the prized works are the Nutall Codice, which may have been among the first batch of gifts Hernan Cortez shipped to Spain’s King Carlos V in the 16th century as proof of the marvels of the New World; it was borrowed from London’s British Museum. Another featured relic is also the show’s largest: a six-foot-tall (1.8 meters) column base in the shape of the feet of an Atlante, or giant; borrowed from the museum at Tula, in central Mexico.

Made of jade, turquoise, gold, seashells, pearls and other materials, these objects depict the way various cultures in Mexico, including the Maya, Toltec, Zapotec, Mixtec and Nahua, venerated the Plumed Serpent god, Quetzalcoatl. The show will travel to Dallas before arriving in Mexico towards the end of 2012.

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Remnants of what is believed to have been the Yale, Harvard or Princeton of the great Aztec empire have been turned into an on-site museum in Mexico City’s Historic Center. The discovery of the Calmecac — where sons of the Aztec ruling class studied and were groomed for high office — is yet another reminder that hundreds of years of pre-Hispanic civilization lie buried beneath the capital.

The small underground museum is built around a raised platform that was once part of a much larger courtyard at the Aztec school for the elite. On display around the platform are 88 artifacts unearthed during the dig, which date from pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern times. Among the prized relics are two clay sculptures about six feet tall, in the form of a snail shell that’s been cut down the middle. The snail designs are considered iconic of pre-Hispanic architecture and descriptions of the Calmecac in codices suggest that a string of similar sculptures formed the cresting along the top of the building.

“Many factors indicate that this was the Calmecac,” said leading archaeologist Raul Barrera during a recent tour of the museum, “including its location on the northwest corner of the sacred great plaza of Tenochtitlan.” The platform and relics were unearthed by accident during excavation work begun in 2006 to expand the garage under Spain’s Cultural Center and the rest, as they say, is history.

  • Calmecac Museo de Sitio del Centro Cultural de España en Mexico
  • Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11 am to 5 pm, Sundays to 3 pm
  • Free admission

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