The Teotihuacan Murals Museum, located on the western edge of the archaeological zone, is home to mural fragments excavated at the site of Teotihuacan. Although some murals have been left in situ in the apartment compounds where they were discovered, many were looted and then repatriated back into Mexico, and brought to this museum.
These murals highlight important aspects of Teotihuacan culture; for example, the Teotihuacan perception of animals, the kind of clothing worn by priests and other members of society, and the importance of natural resources in the Teotihuacano world.
Teotihuacan perception of animals
Animals play a crucial role in Mesoamerican art, but perhaps nowhere more so than at Teotihuacan. The most common examples include the netted jaguar, the eagle, the coyote, the butterfly, and the quetzal bird.
As you enter the Teotihuacan Murals Museum, the first mural you see shows a bird in song. The bird stands with wings outstretched, and a spiral emerges from its mouth- this means that it is singing. Footprints encircle the bird, and although they are human footprints, the design gives the impression that the bird is dancing.
Other murals throughout the museum show coyotes, jaguars, and butterflies. These animals frequently form part of processions, where they appear repeated one after another in a line. These scenes show that Teotihuacanos considered animals to be active participants in society. Archaeological evidence confirms that animals were considered important enough to be included in sacrificial offerings, and they were frequently buried with people of high social rank.
Clothing worn by priests
The murals at Teotihuacan also give us a clearer idea of the clothing worn by ancient people. (In my online course about Teotihuacan, I go more into detail about why this is important.)
This mural shows a priest holding an incense bag while wearing Storm God goggles. He or she appears to be impersonating this deity, and was likely involved in some sort of ritual. This is one of the most frequent depictions we see of human beings in murals: in the act of taking on the persona of a deity in order to plead for their favor or intervention.
Natural resources in the Teotihuacano world
The last mural that you will see as you leave the Teotihuacan Murals Museum is a lush painting of a descending winged person, surrounded by plants and animals. The Teotihuacanos lived in a world that was teeming with life. The mural paintings found at the site frequently incorporate elements of the natural world, including local and exotic plants and different sources of water.
How many different kinds of plants and animals can you identify in the mural below?
This mural is so full of life! Plants grow and twist, birds and butterflies flit through the scene, and there is even a large white heron standing stoically off in the corner. Flowers hang from the top of the scene and decorate the border, creating a full frame of life and abundance.
The mural paintings of Teotihuacan are detailed and lush, giving us a window into the world in which the ancient Teotihuacanos envisioned themselves. For more information on the art and architecture of Teotihuacan, check out my online course, “Experience Teotihuacan”.