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Museo de Arte Prehispanico de México Rufino Tamayo

This week, I visited El Museo de Arte Prehispanico (the Museum of Pre-hispanic Art) to learn about the historic significance and details of pre-hispanic art (one of the many pleasures of having the city as my classroom).

The Museum is partially named after Oaxacan-born Rufino Tamayo, a 20th century painter who’s work was strongly influenced by his Zapotec heritage.


A figure from the Middle Pre-Classic period. It’s of Veracruz nature, though it exhibits traits similar to those of Huastec culture. In the museum’s description, it was noted that the figure was “particularly outstanding for it’s design and expressiveness.” The Huastec people are one of the pre-Colombian Mesoamerican indigenous populations of Mexico (most of them now live in San Luis Potosi and Veracruz). Though their culture isn’t as well-studied as, for example, the Aztecs or Zapotecs, their art remains fairly well-preserved:





This is a depiction of a Jaguar with a rope around it’s neck from the classical period (roughly 200AD – 750AD). From what I understand, Jaguars were a particularly important symbol in Mesoamerica, often depicted as a god or associated with shamanism.




Another Jaguar figure:








Carving of “Diosa de los alimentos” (Goddess of food) in bronze, from the Tolteca culture:







From the Mayan culture, this carved piece is an intricately designed mural of a god (or, as the plaque describes it, “un gran jefe,” or “a great boss”) sitting on two captives:



A rock scuplture that represents divinity:




Also from Veracruz, this stone depicts a richly dressed person, likely to be used as a sacrifice for a ritual; one may also see scrollwork on the bottom and sides:



The container was to be used for a ritual, found in Zempoala, Veracruz. The two figures are Xochipilli, the god of art, games, beauty, dance, flowers, and song in Aztec mythology. His name is a tie between xochitl, meaning “flower,” and pilli, meaning either “prince” or “child.”




Aztec stones (1100 = 1521 BC) that represent calaveras, or skulls:



A stone and mortar type tool, likely used to roll masa or crush items for cooking:




Goddess of Fertility (1100-1521 BC):






A woman in ceremonial dress, likely a sacrifice  (200-750BC):




Woman figure in ritual (200-750 BC):








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