Lienzo Seler II / Coixtlahuaca II
One of the most impressive objects of the Ethnologisches Museum has found a new home: the “Lienzo Seler II / Coixtlahuaca II” is displayed in a wide table display case. The approximately sixteen-square-metre cotton cloth (383 cm x 442 cm) dates from the sixteenth century. Mixtec, Nahuatl, and Cocho speakers produced the painted cloth with inscriptions in the Coixtlahuaca Valley, in what is now the Mexican state of Oaxaca. They recorded social events spanning a period of more than 500 years extending into the early Spanish colonial period after 1521, visualising their claim to power in the style of pre-Columbian pictorial manuscripts.
The historic cloth, which had hung untouched in a glass display case in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin-Dahlem for almost fifty years, was restored in preparation for its transfer to the Humboldt Forum. To protect the light-sensitive fabric, the slightly angled table display case is equipped with a cover which opens at certain intervals to reveal the exhibit. The document is named after its collector, Eduard Seler, who brought it to Berlin in 1897. Later department director of the America collection at what was then the Völkerkundemuseum in Berlin, Seler studied the unknown characters in depth. In addition, the Lienzo bears the name of the main town and valley where it originated. With the colonization of Mesoamerica and the concomitant ban on hieroglyphic writing and destruction of most manuscripts and other written sources, knowledge of how to read the characters was lost. In 2017, the Lienzo was published in all its details for the first time and interpreted by ten international experts based on the latest scientific findings.