Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page

Text and Photos ©2015 by J. Pint

Photo Gallery

Simulated dig

 Simulation of an archaeological dig where visitors must use their wits to peel back the layers of history.

Diana Solórzano

Diana Solórzano, former director of the Museum of Paleontology with a mammoth tooth over 10,000 years old.

Alberto Meillón
The long-legged Queloniodon, “silently stalking its prey in the wetlands” with its creator, poet Alberto Meillón who makes his creatures from found organic materials like shells and twigs.

Didelphismilodon, creation of Alberto Meillón
The fearsome Didelphismilodon, one of 50 imaginary creatures in Alberto Meillón's Prehistory Fantasy exhibit, now at the Paleontology Museum.

Make Your Own room
The “Make-Your-Own-Creature” room at the Museum of Paleontology.


Caves beneath the dunes? Check out our Saudicaves page:







Hobnob with giant sloths, capybaras and mastodons

Museo de Paleontología Guadalajara

By John Pint

We were strolling along the Malecón of Ajijic, Mexico, with new friends. One of them gazed at the placid waters with dreamy eyes and began to tell us stories of amazing animals with exotic names like Megatherium and Gomphothere, creatures which used to frolic alongside the lake in prehistoric times.

“A couple of them got stuck in the mud here... and you should have seen how my father's eyes lit up when he found their bones back in 2000.” Well, the speaker turned out to be Diana Solórzano, former Director of Guadalajara's Museo de Paleontologia and daughter of Jalisco's most famous expert in Paleontology, Federico A. Solórzano, indefatigable collector of ancient bones and founder of the museum.

Gomphothere, 2.5 m high, found at Lake ChapalaOn discovering that we had never visited the museum, which is located at the east end of Agua Azul park in Guadalajara, Diana immediately offered to give us a special tour of the place and a week later we met her in front of the impressive skeleton of that very Gomphothere her father had excavated from the lakeside 15 years before. This elephant-like creature stood 2.5 meters tall, weighed 6,000 kilos and had curved tusks about 3.5 meters long. It roamed western Mexico 13,000 years ago and is a suitable symbol for the Paleontology Museum, which, by the way, took second place in a poll conducted by the magazine México Desconocido for “Best Cultural Attraction in Guadalajara.” Of course, the famous Hospicio Cabañas came in first, but if I had known how interesting choice number two was, I would have checked it out long ago.

Federico Solórzano was born in 1922 and developed a yen for bone collecting when he was just eight years old. “Every one of them has a story to tell,” he would later say, “and believe it or not, they speak to me.” He studied Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Biology, but fossils were always his true love and he became a self-taught paleontologist. Over the years, his private collection grew and grew and finally—rather than hording his treasures for himself—he chose to share them with anyone interested in western Mexico's fascinating past.

Want to discover this ancient world? Just step into the museum. Here you'll find the sabre-toothed cat which went extinct 10,000 years ago and whose remains have only been found in North and South America. Take a few steps and find yourself face-to-face with a   capybara, a fuzzy, adorable-looking creature whose modern-days descendants are still the world's largest rodents, weighing up to 66 kilos. In Pleistocene times they were lots bigger and frolicked around Lake Chapala in great numbers.

Amble on and you'll discover a mammoth tooth as big as a beach ball with a table telling you how to determine the age of a mammoth by looking at its molars.

But not all these fossils are gigantic. One of the most fascinating of all is the teeny skeleton of Tapatia occidentalis, a little live-bearing, sweet-water fish less than 20 milimeters (0.79 inches) long which once lived near Amatitán in what is now the Santa Rosa Canyon. This extinct fish which was given such a charming name, happens to be a relative of Ameca splendens, a native of the Teuchitlán River and, itself, now in danger of extinction.

As you move through the museum, you discover that Federico Solórzano was also fascinated by geology. His collection of minerals is mind-boggling and even includes several genuine meteorites, older than the earth itself.

Perhaps the most educational exhibit in the whole museum is The Bridge, which takes you above a simulated sandy plain dotted with skeletons and bones which visitors are challenged to identify. There's even an “on-going” archaeologist's dig where you can learn about the painstaking process of excavating and documenting bones or artifacts in situ.
   At the end of your tour of the museum, a wonderful surprise awaits you: a temporary exhibit (opened November 1, 2014) of pure fantasy entitled Fantasía Prehistórica II. This room is peopled with over 50 strange and enchanting beings created by artist and poet Alberto Meillón. Having looked at so many skeletons in the museum, we suddenly find whimsical creatures made of everything from fishbones and seashells to flotsam and jetsam. Here you will cross paths with the improbably long-legged Queloniodon, the fearsome Scorpionis tenax and the world's only fossil of the utterly bizarre Kandinskysaurus. If this exhibit turns on your creative juices, in the last room of the museum you yourself can become the creator of a new being the world has never seen before. Just put together the magnetic wings and body parts of your choice and snap a selfie of you and your new creation.

The Museo de Paleontología Federico A. Solórzano Barreto is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and Sundays from 11 to 4. It's located at Roberto Michel 520 at the corner of González Gallo, Tel 36 19 55 60 and 36 19 70 43. Admission is 20 pesos, but it's free for anyone over 60 or under 12.


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