An extraordinary exhibition showcasing stunning artefacts from Mexico’s major museums will tour Australia next year.

Commencing at Melbourne Museum on 9 April 2014, before continuing to the Australian Museum in Sydney from 13 September 2014.

Coming to Australia for the first time, the exhibition Aztecs tells the glorious, dramatic and ultimately tragic story of the Aztec Empire.

Featuring more than 200 sacred cultural objects generously lent from museums throughout Mexico, the exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the ways of life, beliefs and sacrificial rituals of the Aztecs.

The richness and depth of the Aztecs exhibition has captured the public’s imagination in New Zealand where it is currently showing at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington in this first ever visit of an Aztecs exhibition to Australasia. The exhibition is now coming to Australia, where it will have its first showing at Melbourne Museum before going to the Australian Museum in Sydney.

“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington and the Australian Museum to bring this exhibition of remarkable treasures to Australia,” said Dr Patrick Greene, CEO, Museum Victoria.

“The Aztec empire is one of history’s greatest civilisations. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors in Australia to learn about Aztec daily life and afterlife through archaeological finds, intricate models and dramatic multimedia.”

“We are pleased to collaborate with our colleagues at Melbourne Museum, Victoria, and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, to uncover this innovative civilisation. The Aztec civilisation had it all; longevity, noteworthy accomplishments coupled with pioneering education and political structures, before their conquest by the Spanish in 1521. We look forward to sharing with our visitors this dramatic Aztec story told through remarkable objects,” said Mr Frank Howarth, Director, Australian Museum.

The Aztecs emerged as the dominant force in central Mexico in the 15th century. They developed a complex social, political, religious and commercial system from their capital city, Tenochtitlán – the site of modern-day Mexico City. The Aztecs were rich in culture and traditions, with remarkable accomplishments in art and architecture.

Mexican curator Raúl Barrera, head of the INAH Urban Archaeology Program, has selected a fascinating range of objects from a number of different Mexican museums for this exhibition.

The Aztecs exhibition focuses on six major themes to bring this great history to life: including the origins and migration of the Aztecs; religious beliefs and rituals; war and conquest; royal power and family life; markets, trade and agriculture; and finally the fall of the Aztec Empire.

The exhibition centrepiece is an Aztec temple. This scale model temple is a replica of the exterior of the Great Temple – Huey Teocalli, the most important Aztec temple, a site considered to be the centre of the universe, which is the subject of ongoing excavations.

“Religion was central to the Aztecs’ way of life. Their Great Temple physically and spiritually dominated Tenochtitlán. This remarkable structure was a grand and magnificent sight, and a major feat of engineering,” said Ms Lynette Townsend, Curator, Communities and Diversity, Te Papa.

Other highlights of the exhibition include a large ceramic sculpture of Mictlantecuhtli – god of death and lord of the underworld, who stands bent over with his liver hanging out, grinning maniacally, and a skilfully made gold pendant depicting Xochipilli (Flower Prince) – the god of dance, song, art, flowers and beauty. The loan and collection of these treasures has been coordinated by INAH, the Mexican regulatory body which has national oversight of all historical, archaeological and ethnological museums, excavations, research and international lending.

This exhibition was developed by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in partnership with the National Council for Culture and the Arts, and the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico, (CONACULTA-INAH), as well as the Australian Museum and Museum Victoria.

Aztecs on show at:

Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia
13 September 2014 – 1 February 2015