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Tlaltecuhtli Colossal Monolith was Moved to Templo Mayor Museum
General view of the Mexica Goddess Tlaltecuhtli monolith, after being placed inside the Templo Mayor Museum. Photo: INAH/M. Marat.

MEXICO CITY.- The Tlaltecuhtli monolith discovered near Templo Mayor Archaeological Site in 2006 was moved in May 17th 2010 to Templo Mayor Museum, where it is to be presented for the first time as part of the Moctezuma II, Time and Destiny of a Ruler exhibition.

The colossal sculpture was relocated in a maneuver that used state-of-the-art technology and the work of several persons during more than 31 hours. It was moved from the Ajaracas plot to the museum using 2 cranes to lift the four fragments in which the 12 tons piece was found. Trailers transported it through Justo Serra and Correo Mayor Streets to the building where main doors were previously removed to allow the introduction of the enormous stone.

The 4.19 by 3.62 meters monument, besides being the biggest found to present, is the only Mexica sculpture that conserves its original colors. Restoration and consolidation conducted by National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) specialists took 3 years.

Relocation maneuver was directed by archaeologist Leonardo Lopez Lujan, officer of the Templo Mayor Archaeological Project, and supervised by Patricia Real, INAH Museums director, restorer Maria Barajas and archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. Around 22:00 hours of last Monday, the Earth Deity got to the place where it is to be exhibited, at the foyer of Templo Mayor Museum.

Eduardo Matos expressed his amazement at the technological display: “The Coyolxauhqui transportation conducted in 1978 took place with much less technology”, when commenting the work supervised by the director of Templo Mayor Museum, Carlos Javier Gonzalez.

Lopez Lujan remarked that “relocation is a very important maneuver for any universal artwork; besides its historical value, Tlaltecuhtli has tremendous esthetic value, we can affirm it is the work of a Prehispanic Michel Angelo of Phidias”.

Conservation Facts

As part of conservation measures adopted to exhibit this colossal stone is the base designed to temporarily support it. It was manufactured with wood and ethafoam, and the permanent stainless steel support with adjustable points system to level the sculpture is being designed.

Patricia Real Fierros from INAH National Coordination of Museums and Exhibitions declared that the foyer area at the museum was reinforced with braces, given the weight of the sculpture.

Tlaltecuhtli was set in horizontal position, in accordance to Mexica cosmogony. Visitors will be able to admire it from upper levels of the museum.

Maria Barajas, coordinator of Restoration tasks, remarked that one of the priorities in conservation terms is to protect the pigments that color the monument. Humidity, temperature and lighting conditions will be controlled.

Patricia Real recalled that Moctezuma II. Tiempo y destino de un gobernante museographic script has Tlaltecuhtli as the main piece, and other pieces found in the offerings associated will be shown as well. Moctezuma II ordered the creation of this monolith, possibly to be a tombstone.

The presentation of Moctezuma II, Time and Destiny of a Ruler in Mexico is possible after its display at the British Museum in London, where 210,000 persons visited it.

Features of a Goddess

• Tlaltecuhtli is a full-length, ochre colored figure placed against a red background. It represents a feminine deity linked to the Earth.

• Her curly, dark-red hair symbolizes beauty in Prehispanic age, as well as the underworld and the night.

• Her half-moon figured eyes are deep; her nose, wide and her mouth, lipless. A blood spurt originated in the abdomen is coming out of it. Her cheeks have a bas-relief and a blue circle at the center.

• Her flexed arms pointing up symbolize her condition of Earth goddess.

• She is in squatting position; her skirt is decorated with white dots and crossed bones motives.

• Pigments used to color the piece were obtained from minerals and agglutinated with natural adhesives.

Mexico | Tlaltecuhtli Monolith | Templo Mayor Museum | National Institute of Anthropology and History |

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