Friday 8 September 2023

1987 Travel Journal: Exploring Oaxaca

After I stashed my bags in the hotel room, I ventured out to explore Oaxaca.  The zocalo (main square) was just half a block away.  It was crowded with people and had huge trees that provided shade.  I found the town to be very clean and neat.  I walked over to the Rufino Tamayo Pre-Hispanic Museum and toured through it.  Tamayo was a famous Mexican Artist, who did modern art, but the museum housed his collection of Pre-Columbian art, mostly clay figures.  Of all the intricate sculptured pieces on display, I liked the of dogs the best; they were very expressive and looked “yappy and snappy” to me.

Leaving the museum, I got turned around, but stumbled upon a small square where Indian women were weaving on looms that were attached to trees.  

I then found Oaxaca’s Regional Museum which is housed in a two-storied old Spanish convent building with a courtyard inside lined with the arched columns of the building.  The museum displays were on the second floor.  My Mexico guide book said not to miss the artifacts in “Tomb 7” in the museum, so I filed that information in the back of my mind as I began to wander through the displays of Indian and peasant dress, tools, and then ancient artifacts.

One display that was very intriguing, showed skulls with 3/4 inch holes bored through the top of them.  All of the display signs were in Spanish, so they were incomprehensible to me, but my guide book said that ancient city of Monte Alban was thought to be a kind of a medical center, so I assume the skulls were the result of surgery done to relieve swollen brain injuries.  I know that multiple  Meso-American skulls have been discovered that show bone growth after such surgeries, proving that the patients recovered.  I certainly wondered how such delicate operations were done without the anesthesia that we know of today.

The last section of the museum showed relics of the convent:  fancy robes, chalices, and the austere rooms where the monks lived.  After that area, I was about to go down the stairway to leave when I realized I hadn’t seen anything about “Tomb 7”. 

I walked across the balcony to the opposite side of the courtyard where I noticed some security guards standing beside a doorway labeled, “Tomb 7”.  I was surprised when one of the guards followed me when I passed through the door, and I soon realized why—GOLD!

Not only gold, but also silver, jade, and turquoise artifacts—the most interesting and beautiful collection that I had ever seen.  The workmanship was outstanding.  There were jade spool-like objects that appeared to be  only 1/16th inches thick, there were intricate little gold figurines, and tiny turquoise beads.  It was a really spectacular collection.  I was sure happy that I had remembered to visit “Tomb 7”.

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