Escultura personajes, El Zapotal, Centro de Veracruz. 600-900 DC - Clásico tardío. Arcilla. 65 x 44 x 31 cm, Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.

Fragmento de pintura mural (reproducción facsimilar), Las Higueras. 600-900 DC, Clásico tardío, Estuco con pigmentos. 152 x 67 x 73 cm, Museo de Sitio de Higueras.

The Role of Gods, Rituals, and Crafts in Prehispanic Mexico

Figurilla antropomorfa de pie con brazos extendidos, Centro de Veracruz. 600-900 DC, Clásico, Arcilla. 48,5 x 31,2 x 11,8 cm, San Juan de Ulúa.

Personaje con anteojeras (deidad del agua, Tlaloc), El Zapotal. 600-900 DC, Clásico, Barro/Arcilla. 48 x 26 x 41 cm, Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.

Ehecatl, Centro de Veracruz. 900-1521 DC, Postclásico, Barro/Arcilla. 62 x 34 x 44 cm, Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.

Personaje sedente, Centro de Veracruz. 250-900 DC, Clásico, Barro/Arcilla. 55 x 35 x 38 cm, Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.

Personaje con jaguar, Zapotal. 600-900 DC, Clásico tardío. Barro/Arcilla. 76 x 34 x 24 cm. Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.

Señor de Ozuluama, Ozuluama. 1200-1521 DC, Postclásico tardío, Piedra arenisca. 163 x 51,5 x 20 cm, Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.

Escultura de Xipe Totec, Centro Sur de Veracruz. 250-900 DC, Clásico. Arcilla. 158 x 53 x 60 cm, Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.


Fundación PROA
Avenida Pedro de Mendoza 1929
+ (54.11) 4104.1000
Buenos Aires
Gods, rites and crafts of prehispanic Mexico
October 15, 2011-January 8, 2012

Gods, rites and crafts of prehispanic Mexico emphasizes the role of gods and the rituals that revolved around them. It also reviews the range of trades performed by the inhabitants of the region before the Spanish conquest.

Gods, rites and crafts of prehispanic Mexico features over 150 archeological pieces from an array of cultures that inhabited the Gulf of Mexico, what is now the Veracruz region.

Through a selection of works from the holdings of a number of institutions and museums under the authority of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México (INAH) and the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, this exhibition offers the Argentine public an unprecedented overview of the range of symbolic universes that these societies produced.

The exhibition opens with the ruling gods of these societies, gods common to all the Mesoamerican cultures. These supreme and immortal deities were conceived in the image and likeness of human being, and hence represented as old and young human figures. Between fear, benevolence, punishment and malice, the gods of fertility, which were associated with water, wind and the cycle of birth, reproduction and death, are featured. Tlaloc, for instance, was a god of fertility, and the figure of Xipe Totec, a symbol of the change in vegetation on earth, represented here in a sculpture almost two meters high. The exhibition also includes a figure associated with the cult of the diving bird. Wearing the classic headdress with the figure of a descending bird, this image was associated with burial; it first appeared in circa 100 B.C.

The exhibition goes on to feature “festivities and accouterments of the gods,” with Tlaloc once again, along with his servers, who are represented in stone sculptures, clay statutes and vessels. The exhibition encompasses the cult to Xipe Totec, god of goldsmiths, and the representation of sacrifices in his name: stone and clay sculptures with rings and pectorals, and a face made of gold. The monumentality, sophistication and symbolic power of this group of never-before-seen pieces is striking.

Gods, rites and crafts of prehispanic Mexico addresses the trades of these pre-Hispanic cultures, featuring the work of two important groups. Potters, whose remarkable vessels were used for everyday and religious purposes. These craftsmen made extraordinary figures of gods for temples and homes, as well as musical instruments, impressive water piping systems, and an array of decorative objects. The second major trade was lapidaries, who worked in stone to make instruments for domestic and ritual use, and for hunting and fishing. They also made accessories like earrings, labrets, nose rings, pectorals and elements used in rituals like yokes, axes and palm leaves. The exhibition’s novel approach renders these ancient objects efficacious and effective in these times.

The exhibition also features the production of those who worked with indispensable sea materials like conch and snail shells to make bracelets, rings and armbands. It includes fragments of mural paintings, which are crucial to grasping the vital, sacred and profane orders of these cultures.

Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico also stages the ritual of the ball. It provides a wealth of educational information that makes it possible to delve into this historic period and the conceptual frameworks that resonated in these cultures’ varied worldviews. The exhibition contains extremely important historical photographs from the archives of the Fototeca Nacional of INAH, located in Pachuca, Hidalgo.

A major catalogue with a detailed reproduction of each piece in the exhibition as well as texts by specialists in the field makes it possible to accurately recreate and delve into the specific aesthetic experience inherent to each piece.

Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico is organized by the Embassy of Mexico in Argentina, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México (INAH), the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, the Fototeca Nacional del INAH, the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa and the Universidad Veracruzana have all contributed to its production.

Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico is made possible with the support of Tenaris/Organización Techint.

The Exhibition is curated by Adriana Rosenberg

The Gulf of Mexico, and more precisely the State of Veracruz, houses and keeps in custody centuries of history; a peculiar territory where pieces from the most ancient Mesoamerican civilizations were found. Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico brings together colossal and everyday life pieces to draw a panorama of the life, gods and views of the world of its inhabitants.

Bringing together the patrimony of 13 museums, two houses of culture, an archaeological zone and the Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH), curator David Morales Gómez has selected a collection of pieces, charged emotionally by its beauty and the mystery each beholds: its past. From the perspective of contemporary art, bringing history to the present is an enormous challenge. Each exhibited piece is for us a work of art and lives in an on-going present.

The will and determination of mankind to leave evidence of its existence draws a line uniting diverse cultural experiences across centuries; a history made of images. Over 2,000 years create an impact viewers because of their unalterable ability to unveil works, dreams and beliefs.

The collection of works included in the exhibition dialogues with the past and allows us to embark on contemplation from a contemporary standpoint. Archaeological pieces excavated and now placed within the space of the exhibition galleries alongside their friezes carved in stone, evoke its natural landscape as well as the materials with which these groups worked. In this way, •Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico• is an art world. The exhibition presents everyday life objects, offerings to the gods, elements used during ritual sacrifices and also during games. Its historical timeframe covers a long period: from 700BC, until little after the Spanish conquest, the denominated postclassical era.

Through this exhibition and its associated publication, Fundación Proa pays homage to the gesture of building memory; highlighting the simplicity of a necklace as well as the monumentality of the carved stone in the mountain, fragment of a pastoral centre or a pyramid. The visitor with scarce knowledge in archaeology and the complex historical periods faces these secrets and begins an exchange leading towards the depth of time and the roots of our existence. Without seeking to quiet all doubts, the beauty of the pieces in itself captivates the audience. The pieces take part in our world and that of universal art..
Curatorial Text, by David Morales Gómez
La idea de concebir una muestra arqueológica que nos permita viajar por el tiempo y poder reconstruir a través de sus expresiones artísticas el imaginario de los grupos culturales asentados en las costas del golfo: •Gods, ritos y oficios del México prehispánico• es una excelsa selección de piezas arqueológicas que muestran la enorme variedad de las ideas, la estructura social y el amplio bagaje cultural. Los ejemplos materiales aquí presentados dan a conocer la complejidad de una ideología al mismo tiempo que la especialización en el trabajo de los oficios como artesanos, alfareros, ceramistas, lapidarios y escultores.

La época prehispánica dentro de la macro-área cultural llamada Mesoamérica vio el asentamiento y desarrollo de diferentes grupos humanos, los cuales crearon complejas culturas a través de los conocimientos adquiridos, la práctica de diversas actividades, y más tarde los contactos entre sociedades por medio de intercambios de materiales e ideas.

Las culturas mesoamericanas, entre ellas las de la costa del Golfo son un claro ejemplo de los diferentes aspectos que desplegaron y que fueron la base de una cultura rica en costumbres, ideología, creencias y tradiciones.

Con una selección de 150 piezas, y gracias a la participación de 13 Museos, dos Casas de Cultura, una Zona Arqueológica y un Instituto de Antropología se logró la propuesta curatorial, que inicia su recorrido por medio de tres ejes temáticos: los dioses, en su mayoría deidades de la fertilidad, en piedra y barro, deidades que están presentes como el dios del agua, Tláloc; dios de la fertilidad Xipetotec; dioses narigudos, Tlazolteotl y Cihuateteotl; y la deidad de la muerte, Mictlantecutli.

La propuesta de selección de los dioses refiere a las deidades representativas de los grupos culturales de Veracruz.

Cada deidad es única y diferente pero entre ellas comparten atributos que las entrelazan, y así pasamos a los rituales que se celebran entorno a estas; en esta sección (dioses) el objetivo es presentar a la deidad, su festividad y sus ritos, la fecha de su fiesta y su relación con la naturaleza (…).

Las creencias religiosas se reflejan en un conjunto de dioses, sobre los cuales recae (…) la comprensión de un mundo y su entorno (…). Lograron materializarlos en esculturas, figurillas y vasijas llenas de motivos simbólicos que ayudan a entender el significado de cada una de esas piezas y lo que representaba en el contexto ritual. La cosmovisión de las culturas de Veracruz es sin duda una de las más grandes en extensión de elementos, la diversidad de cultos y ritos van desde los exclusivamente relacionados con la religión hasta los que se vinculan con las diferentes actividades, tanto domésticas como económicas, muchas de estas compartidas con otras áreas mesoamericanas, con rasgos particulares propias de la región costeña.

En el tema de los ritos auspiciados por los dioses, la exposición contempla el ritual del juego de la pelota, con sus yugos y hachas votivas, los delimitadores de la cancha del mismo juego, y jugadores de pelota elaborados en barro. Otro ritual de los más complejos es el que se celebraba en torno de Mictlantecutli, la deidad de la muerte, presentado por una escultura de un cráneo y las diosas que lo acompañan. (…)

Los oficios son otro aspecto fundamental de la vida prehispánica, casi tan importante como el aspecto religioso e ideológico. Los oficios, y sus especializaciones, formaron una base de estabilidad para que los individuos pertenecientes a una cultura practicaran y experimentaran diversas tareas que les permitieran consolidar una base de sustento al interior de sus sociedades y extenderse por medio del intercambio comercial al exterior.

Los alfareros trabajaban por generaciones elaborando vajillas domésticas y rituals (…). El oficio de los lapidarios –los que trabajan la piedra– con esculturas en piedra antropomorfas y zoomorfas, herramientas de trabajo, así como utensilios, elementos arquitectónicos, y figurillas antropomorfas. Otro grupo son los que trabajan la pintura mural, con sus técnicas de pintura, los que trabajan la concha elaborando brazaletes, collares y pulseras (…).

Aunque no podemos considerar a los músicos como un oficio decidimos darle un espacio en la exposición por la calidad de las piezas, los instrumentos trabajados por los alfareros generalmente fueron elementos importantes en las fiestas de sus dioses, en los rituales. (…)
Muchas de las piezas de los museos que participan en esta exposición solo se conocen de manera local en su región. Hoy Gods, ritos y oficios de México prehispánicoda la oportunidad para que propios y extraños conozcan estos objetos (…).

The Catalog
The publication Dioses, ritos y oficios del México prehispánico (Gods, rites and crafts of the prehispanic Mexico) presents a group of outstanding and never-before-seen archeological pieces from the different cultures that inhabited what is now the Veracruz region on the Gulf of Mexico.

From the perspective of the present, this publication makes it possible to accurately recreate and delve into the aesthetic experience and symbolic efficacy of each object and representation. It is the first catalog to bring together pieces from thirteen museums, two cultural centers, an archeological site and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia de México (INAH).

The publication includes gods, with their multiple functions and the breadth of the formal approaches developed in their name; rites and the objects connected to ritual celebrations and the embodiment of divine attributes; and trades in the form of objects that evidence the remarkable production of groups of craftsmen, and a daily life rich in creativity.

A group of texts by experts delves into the meanings of each of these practices and makes it possible to reconstruct the dynamics of these societies. The curator of the exhibition and coordinator of its catalog, David Morales Gómez, selected writings produced in the context of the most recent studies into commerce, the ritual of the ball, work with stone, pottery, and sacrifices, thus offering a comprehensive overview of the zones richest in terms of cultural diversity.

Gods, rites and crafts of prehispanic Mexico is a crucial volume. The enduring images and significant contributions of the texts make it possible not only to examine the past of the American continent but also, and above all, to keep its memory alive.

Figura antropomorfa, Remojadas. 400 AC-200 DC, Preclásico tardío, Barro/Arcilla, 47 x 26,5 x 22,5 cm, Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.

Escultura dios Tlaloc, Centro de Veracruz. 250-900 DC, Clásico, Piedra caliza. 136 x 46 x 16 cm, Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.


Escultura antropomorfa femenina, deidad, El Zapotal. 600-900 DC, Clásico. Arcilla, 100 x 5,8 x 58 cm. Museo de Antropología de Xalapa.