Mexican archaeologist Matos Moctezuma, who led landmark Aztec Temple excavation, won major award. Photo: Getty
Mexican archaeologist Matos Moctezuma, who led landmark Aztec Temple excavation, won major award. Photo: Getty

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, the Mexican archaeologist who recovered the Templo Mayor from the Aztecs, receives the Princess of Asturias Award

A celebrated Mexican archaeologist, Matos Moctezuma led the excavation of the Great Aztec Temple in Mexico City and studied the secrets of Tenochtitlan.


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Eduardo Matos Moctezuma (Mexico City, 1940) won last Wednesday the Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, one of the main awards in the Hispanic cultural world, which will be presented to him next October in the Spanish city of Oviedo.
"It is for me a very high honor that I am very grateful," said the renowned anthropologist in a statement released by the Princess of Asturias Foundation.
The jury of the Award distinguished him this Wednesday with the award for his "extraordinary intellectual rigor" and his "exceptional contribution" in "reconstructing the civilizations of Mexico and Mesoamerica, and for making that heritage be incorporated with objectivity and free of any myth".
Among the main achievements of the renowned Mexican archaeologist is having led the excavation project of the Templo Mayor of the Aztecs, which arose from the discovery of the Coyolxauhqui, in the subsoil of Mexico City, in 1978.  In this place, according to the Mexica legend, the goddess Coyolxauhqui died beheaded at the hands of her brother, as it appears in the stone discovered during the excavations: decapitated, dismembered, adorned with bells. 

Matos Moctezuma has also led other emblematic projects in Tula, Teotihuacan, Tlatelolco and the emblematic Tenochtitlan, capital of the Mexica empire, one of the largest cities in the world that captivated Hernán Cortés five centuries ago.


It was there that the first meeting between Cortés and Moctezuma II took place on November 8, 1519. This event marked forever the conquest of the territory of present-day Mexico.
"Penetrating the past to bring it to the present has been the work that I have constantly carried out throughout my life. Today I see with great satisfaction the fruits of that work," said Matos after learning that he had won the Princess of Asturias Award.
This work, he added, has allowed him to learn about Mexico's own history and "how it is linked to the history of other countries such as Spain". "Both nations "are brotherly countries that are united by indissoluble ties and should further strengthen their relations," he stressed.

altar mayor aztecas
Matos Moctezuma holds a master's degree in Anthropological Sciences, specializing in Archaeology, from the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). 

Among his published works are Muerte a filo de obsidiana: los nahuas frente a la muerte, Vida y muerte en el Templo Mayor and La muerte entre los mexicas, all of them dedicated to bring to the surface and explain the Mexica culture.
Harvard University distinguished him with the Henry B. Nicholson Medal and also established a chair with his name. He was also distinguished with the French Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques, and Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite. He was recently recognized along with Leonardo López Luján, also of the Templo Mayor Project, as a new international honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).


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