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Current time:0:00Total duration:2:43

Video transcript

we're in the Museum of the temple my earth the main Astec temple in what is now Mexico City looking at a small green stone sculpture of a human face and although this was found buried as a kind of offering in the temple precinct what we're looking at is something from a far older culture older even than the Aztecs this mask actually belonged to the Olmec culture which started thriving somewhere between 1500 and 1200 BCE so more than 1500 years before the Aztecs the Olmecs were thriving along the gulf coast of Mexico not even central Mexico where the Aztecs are later building their capital city so this is just in both in terms of geography but it's also really distant in terms of time for the Aztecs looking back to the Olmecs is something akin to us in the modern era looking back to the ancient Romans this mask is not much bigger than the palm of my hand it's a traditional Olmec mask and it's made in this beautiful green stone it's polished it's a great example of Olmec features like upturned lips this almost baby face almond eyes the cleft in the head and what's remarkable is that the Aztecs were actually collecting these objects and then ritually burying them at certain points and this object would have been one of many buried in a specific offering it shows us that the Aztecs had a reverence for the ancient cultures that came before them that they were thinking historically and that's true not only that they were looking to the Olmec the kind of mother culture of Mesoamerica but they were also looking to say the city of Teotihuacan and its inhabitants that was flourishing hundreds and hundreds of years before the Aztec that's the city famous because of its enormous pyramids and it was where the Aztecs thought v air or the Sun was born and they called it the city of the gods that's what Teotihuacan means and as we look here around the galleries we can see other masks that were buried in some of these offerings that were taken from the city of Teotihuacan as well so the Aztecs were collecting objects from both central Mexico but also from quite a distance there were importing materials from what is now the southwest of the United States they were bringing objects up from the Yucatan the divisions that we think of in the modern world did not exist in the same way it's a great example not only of their RK izing or they're looking to the Past but also these vast trade networks throughout Mesoamerica
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