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David M. Jones

revised by James A. Doyle

The collection of artifacts and information concerning ancient Mesoamerican cultures began in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish Conquest. Much of the plunder and tribute collected by Hernán Cortés and other conquistadores was sent to Europe, finding its way into the Kunstkammern of the nobility. Some gold objects of exceptional artistic quality survived the great meltdown and eventually entered into other museum collections (New York, Met.; Turin, Museo di Antropologia ed Etnografia; St. Petersburg, Hermitage). Several of the conquistadores also wrote histories of their exploits, incorporating valuable information about the cultures they had conquered; two of the most famous are Cortés’s Cartas de relación (1519–1526), written to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Bernal Díaz’s Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (1568). Descriptions such as those written by Bernardino de Sahagún and Diego de Landa in the 16th century (see Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica...