Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page

Text  ©2016 by J. Pint

Photo credits: Bristol Culture/Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives unless otherwise indicated

Photo Gallery

Poster: The Remarkable Miss Breton

Poster for The Remarkable Miss Breton exhibit in Bath, where her family lived. Beautifully accurate watercolors are just part of the 1,500 items that she bequeathed to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery upon her death.

Guadalupe Mound Burial, Jalisco, Mexico

Mound of Guadalupe burial site near Etzatlán, photographed and visited by Adela Breton in 1896. Click for higher resolution version, with Breton's notes.

Guide to the Guachimontones by John Pint

Learn all about the circular pyramids and the Lost Civilization of Teuchitlán. Order a copy of John Pint's Guide to West Mexico's Guachimontones and Surrounding Area (in English and Spanish).Figure from Mound of Guadalupe Adela Breton's drawing of a figurine (about 2000 years old) found at the Hacienda de Guadalupe burial site near Etzatlán. Because this person has nose and ear rings, he was probably a member of the elite.

Photo of Guachimonton by Adela Breton
Adela was also a photographer and took several photos of the Guaxi mounds, as she called them, in 1896.

Man-made cave at Cerro de las Cuevas, Atitlán

Archeologist Rodrigo Esparza, foreground right, points out ancient shards in the floor of a man-made cave at el Cerro de Las Cuevas, visited by Adela Breton in 1896 and also known as “La Otra Banda” to the local people of San Juanito. Before the Spaniards drained el Lago de Magdalena, this was an island called Atitlán, for 2000 years the most important center of obsidian workshops in western Mexico.

Adela Breton sketch compared with Google Earth image

Detail of Adela Breton's sketch of the Guachimontones, compared with the present-day view of the mounds in Google Earth.

Hills beyond the Guachimontones- sketch by Adela Breton

Breton's sketch of the Guachimontones with "fortified tors, town and temple mounds" on the mountain above them. Click for higher resolution version.

Digitisation of Adela Breton paintings by Dan Brown

Recently, Art UK Digitisation Services has been working with Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives on a project to create high-resolution images of Adela Breton's paintings, drawings and very fragile tracings of the frescos like those of Chichén Itzá. You can find the interesting story of this process on Art UK's Adela Breton page.

Acanceh by Adela Breton

Detail: watercolor painting of the stucco facade of the temple on the pyramid at Acanceh ®Bristol Culture, by Adela Breton.

Jaguars detail by Adela Breton

Detail: watercolor of a caryatid from the outer chamber, Upper Temple of the Jaguars ®Bristol Culture, by Adela Breton.

Mural from Temple of Jaguars by Adela Breton

Detail: tracing of a mural painting from Upper Temple of the Jaguars ®Bristol-Culture, by Adela Breton.

Figurine owned by Adela Breton

Funerary figure from the Guadalupe Mound burial. The ceramic figure of a woman is hollow, and would have required great technical skills to make and fire. She is wearing jewellery, body paint or tattoos, and a patterned cloth skirt.  The funerary figures showed that the dead person was someone of importance in their lifetime, so the ancestral spirits would recognise their status in the afterlife.  The bowl may hold symbolic food offerings for the ancestors.   It is a type of pottery known as El Arenal Brown: the El Arenal Brown potters had great technical skill.

From ‘Some Mexican Portrait Clay Figures’ by Adela C Breton, published in MAN, 1903







British archaeological artist visited Teuchitlán in 1896
(first published in the Guadalajara Reporter, August 11, 2016)

By John Pint  

 In 1894, a man living near the famed ruins of Teotihuácan, 50 kilometers from Modern Mexico City, discovered a small, preHispanic house whose walls were covered with beautifully colored murals. The place was called Teopancaxco or “La Casa de Barrios.” The paintings were the first of their kind found at Teotihuácan and visitors considered them spectacular.

Weather and time eventually did their damage to the murals and today we would have little idea of how they once looked if it were not for an extraordinary Englishwoman named Adela Breton who had fallen in love with Mexico's ruins and who painstakingly reproduced these murals as watercolors. Mary Frech, author of Adela Breton, a Victorian Artist amid Mexico's Ruins, says, quoting
James Langley:

Casa de Barrios Mural by Adela Breton - Photo Bristol Culture

Watercolor painting of the mural at la Casa de Barrios, Teopancaxco, by British explorer Adela Breton

 “Adela 'made the most comprehensive record of the murals at Teopancaxco. Her re-creation of the colours of the murals is unsurpassed compared with the few colour reproductions available, and thus constitutes an irreplaceable memorial of the now destroyed masterpieces.'”

What was an unmarried Victorian gentlewoman doing in Mexico before the turn of the century, 5500 miles from home?

Exploring, painting, sketching, measuring and photographing not only Mexico's best-known archaeological sites like those at Chichen Itza, but, it seems, even obscure ruins from the extensive Teuchitlán Tradition of western Mexico which, it was generally believed, were unheard of before the late, great Phil Weigand gazed upon the Guachimontones in 1969.

Proof of Adela Breton's keen observations in Jalisco came to light recently when the Museum of Bristol published Breton's sketches of the now famous Circular Pyramids of Teuchitlán.

“Accurate drawings of the Guachimontones in 1896?” exclaimed archaeologist Rodrigo Esparza. “That's amazing!”

Adela Breton's Sketch of Guachimontones - Photo Bristol Culture 

Adela Breton's 1896 sketch of the three principal Guachimontones near Teuchitlán. Click on the image for better resolution.

Even more amazing was the discovery, again thanks to the Bristol Museum, that Adela Breton had taken the first known photographs of the three largest “Guaxi mounds” as she labeled them.

Did Miss Breton publish anything related to the Guachimontones?  The answer is yes, but apparently only a few words. Here is what she says in a paper delivered at the International Congress of Americanists in 1902:

“Teuchitlán is a small town at the foot of a long spur of [Tequila] volcano... At Teuchitlán, obsidian rejects are thickly strewn over a great extent of ground.  In addition to the obsidian, it has a most interesting ancient site on the summit of the hill, and the remarkable mounds and circles called Huaerchi Monton half way up.”

While in Jalisco, Miss Breton's resourceful guide Pablo Solorio somehow learned that a mound housing an untouched tomb had been discovered near Etzatlán and had recently been opened. Adela went to the Mound of Guadalupe and gives us what is probably the first description of the unearthing of a burial site in western Mexico. “Unfortunately,” she reported, “there was no skilled supervision, no data were secured, and most of the figures were broken.”

Fortunately, however, the resourceful Adela was on hand and recorded, according to Mary Frech, that “the mound was about forty feet high and held a burial with pots, jewelry, clay 'portrait' figures ranging from twelve to twenty inches tall and other artifacts.” Of course she sketched a number of those broken figures and even photographed the Mound of Guadalupe, of which today little is left to see.

Adela Breton - Photo Bristol Culture Adela Catherine Breton was born in London in 1849.After the death of both her parents, she was “easily convinced” by pioneer in archaeological techniques Alfred Maudslay to travel to Chichén Itzá to make sketches which would allow Maudslay to check the accuracy of his own drawings, before publishing his Biologia Centrali-Americana. Thus began her curious career as an archaeological artist.

According to Matt Williams of the
Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution, Adela “developed into a world-renowned archaeological copyist thanks to her drawings of friezes, carved reliefs, painted plasters and other cultural treasures – some of which are now the only records that remain of items long since lost to vandalism and decay.”

Williams says Adela traveled hard and wrote, “I used to live chiefly on air and a few peanuts for the long riding journeys — 30 miles without any breakfast.”

"Adela chose not to marry,” he adds, “as it was the only thing that guaranteed a woman's independence in those days. She wanted to be free to travel and chart her own destiny."

According to Kate Devlin, a writer forTrowelblazers.com, Harvard anthropologist Alfred Tozzer once said, “You look at Miss Breton and set her down as a weak, frail and delicate person who goes into convulsions at the sight of the slightest unconventionality in the way of living. But I assure you, her appearance is utterly at variance with her real self.”

Adela Breton died at age 73 in Barbados in 1923 and left most of her work and collection to the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, the best of which is now on display (until May 14, 2017) in an exhibition entitled 
Adela Breton: Ancient Mexico in Colour. “It will be the first time the life-size copies have been displayed for 70 years,” says Senior Curator Sue Giles, “and they probably won’t be displayed again for another 70.”
Teuchitlan Guachimonton by John Pint

Guachimontón Number Two "La Iguana" today --  Photo by  John Pint


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