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

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma (Mexico, 1940) won last Wednesday the Princess of Asturias Prize for Social Sciences, one of the main prizes in the Hispanic cultural world, which will be presented to him next October in the Spanish city of Oviedo.

“It is a very great honor for me for which I am very grateful,” the renowned anthropologist said in a statement released by the Princess of Asturias Foundation.

The jury of the Prize distinguished him this Wednesday with the prize for his “extraordinary intellectual rigor” and his “exceptional contribution” to “the reconstruction of the civilizations of Mexico and Mesoamerica, and for having ensured that this heritage be incorporated with objectivity and free from myth”.

Among the main achievements of the renowned Mexican archaeologist, he directed the excavation project of the Templo Mayor of the Aztecs, born from the discovery of the Coyolxauhqui, in the basement of Mexico City, in 1978. In this place, according to the Mexica legend, the goddess Coyolxauhqui died decapitated by the hands of her brother, as appears from the stone discovered during the excavations: decapitated, dismembered, decorated with bells.

Matos Moctezuma has also carried out other emblematic projects in Tula, Teotihuacan, Tlatelolco and the emblematic Tenochtitlan, capital of the Mexica Empire, one of the greatest 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 back to the present has been the work I have consistently done throughout my life. Today I see with great satisfaction the fruits of that work,” Matos said after learning that he had won the Princess of Asturias award. . This work, he added, allowed him to discover Mexico’s own history and “how it is linked to the history of other countries like Spain”. “The two nations ‘are brotherly countries which are united by inseparable ties and need to further strengthen their relations,’ he stressed.

Matos Moctezuma holds a master’s degree in anthropological sciences, specializing in archeology, 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 devoted to bringing to light and explaining Mexican culture.

Harvard University honored him with the Henry B. Nicholson Medal and also established a chair named after him. He was also distinguished with the French Chevalier in the Order of Academic Palms and Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite. He was recently recognized along with Leonardo López Luján, also from the Templo Mayor project, as a new international honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).

Edward K. Thompson