A god overseeing the underground world holds his hands up and makes a comical face as if to surprise the dead. He is 176-centimeter tall and weighs 128 kilograms but his face with a wide smile looks more like a child, rather than frightening. It is a clay figure of Mictlantecuhtli, a god from Aztec culture, which flourished in the central plateau of Mexico from the 13th to 16th century. Aztecs believed that humans were created with the bones of a giant from the underground world and that there are lives because of deaths.
There are currently only two clay figures of Mictlantecuhtli left in Mexico and one of them will be exhibited at the National Museum of Korea for its special exhibition titled “Aztecs” on Tuesday. The exhibition to be held in celebration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between South Korea and Mexico will feature 208 pieces from the collections of 11 overseas museums, including the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico and the Linden Museum in Germany. The Aztecs, the Maya, and the Inca are considered the three major civilization in central America.
The exhibition consisting of five parts will showcase the life of the Aztecs before Spanish conquerors invaded the civilization in 1521. The first part features a 3D sculpture recreating a masterpiece of the Aztecs, “Sunstone.” Sunstone is a large circular stonework, measuring 358 centimeters in diameter and 98 centimeters thick, and weighing 24,590 kilograms. It was created under the order of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II in the early 16th century. A sacrificial offering to protect the Sun is projected onto the 3D sculpture. In the second part of the exhibition, the sculptures of indigenous gods, such as the goddess of corn Xilonen, are featured.
From part 3 to part 5, the Aztecs’ biggest city Tenochtitlan is the main theme. A large stone eagle head is featured against the painting of Tenochtitlan in the 14th to 16th centuries. Tenochtitlan, which was four times larger than Yeouido, had a population of 200,000 people who used over 40 languages. The stone eagle head was a sculpture that decorated the outer wall of a temple in the center of the city, symbolizing the Sun in Aztec culture.