General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 23 Nov 2017/8 Flint
Text Size:

Link to page about the Maya Calendar
Today's Maya date is: 13.0.4.17.18 - 1799 days into the new cycle!
Link to page of interest to teachers
Click to find out how we can help you!
Search the Site (type in white box):

British Museum exhibition on Moctezuma

The exhibition: Teachers’ Preview

Teachers were invited by the British Museum to enjoy a privileged preview of ‘Moctezuma’ on September 16th before it opens to the public on the 24th. The Mexicolore teaching team were there to report for you... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Curator Colin McEwan introducing teachers to the classic portrait of Moctezuma by 17th century Mexican painter Antonio Rodriguez
Curator Colin McEwan introducing teachers to the classic portrait of Moctezuma by 17th century Mexican painter Antonio Rodriguez (Click on image to enlarge)

Fourth and last in the ‘Great Rulers’ series, the exhibition has involved two years of intense preparations and negotiations for the curator, Colin McEwan, who was there to give a one-hour guided tour of the exhibition, which has not been without its problems. There was still a space awaiting rare Aztec/Mexica featherwork pieces from Mexico City, currently held up in US Customs; and it took 10 hours to install the massive 3-ton ‘Procession of Warriors’ stone sculpture which requires special underpinning to prevent the Reading Room floor from collapsing under the weight...

The Mexica ‘Teocalli of Sacred Warfare’, commissioned by Moctezuma in 1507, soars skyward within the BM’s famous Reading Room
The Mexica ‘Teocalli of Sacred Warfare’, commissioned by Moctezuma in 1507, soars skyward within the BM’s famous Reading Room (Click on image to enlarge)

There are several predictable ‘goodies’ from the BM collections (turquoise masks, sacrifice knife, atlatl, teponaztli...) but equally, many objects never before exhibited in the UK, including recently discovered jewellery, portraits, screen mural, stone monoliths, codices and much more.

Mexicolore team members and colleague at the Teachers’ Preview of Moctezuma
Mexicolore team members and colleague at the Teachers’ Preview of Moctezuma (Click on image to enlarge)

Despite some opposition from marketing staff, the curatorial department have succeeded in promoting the ‘proper’ name Mexica for the Aztecs, both throughout the exhibition and in supporting literature. Mexica was the Náhuatl name commonly used for themselves by the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan, and of course is the origin of the word Mexico today. Our team have been explaining this fact in hundreds of schools in England for nearly 3 decades. It was curious, then, to find a mistake on one of the very first panels in the exhibition space where this is explained: the stress is wrongly shown as ‘Mé-shee-ka’ (where it should be on the penultimate syllable, MeSHEEka).

Mexicolore team members study the Codex Moctezuma
Mexicolore team members study the Codex Moctezuma (Click on image to enlarge)

Equally difficult is the name Moctezuma itself. Certainly the anglicised version Montezuma is the least appropriate (and considered very odd in Mexico itself); ‘standard’ is the Spanish version, which was the closest the Spanish could get to the original Motecuhzoma.

Detail of the portrait of Moctezuma by Antonio Rodriguez
Detail of the portrait of Moctezuma by Antonio Rodriguez (Click on image to enlarge)

For the first time in a major exhibition on the Aztecs/Mexica, the truth behind the events that led to Moctezuma’s death are explored in depth: essentially ‘did he fall or was he pushed?’ According to the Spanish he was stoned to death by his own people. But careful interpretation of Mexica and colonial documents suggests that he was murdered by the Spanish as soon as they realised he could no longer serve them as a bargaining tool and voice of authority over the Mexica. We will soon be publishing a detailed analysis of this by a world authority, who reveals the most important aspect to this controversy as ‘not what WAS, but what - according to Mexica tradition - SHOULD HAVE BEEN’. More such gems include a detailed portrait of Moctezuma’s daughter Isabel. Watch this space...!

Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

Feedback button

Here's what others have said: