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Archaeologist Investigates Drawings of Prehispanic Sites from the 17th Century
Drawing by Francisco Agüera y Bustamante. Photo: Leonardo Lopez Lujan/INAH.
MEXICO CITY.- Hundreds of images of Prehispanic monuments and sites, created during the Colonial period and located in diverse archives, most of them outside Mexico, are being studied by archaeologist Leonardo Lopez Lujan, and have became helpful documentary sources for the location of Mesoamerican sculptures and ceremonial sites.

Although technological devises make archaeological research easier, the researcher from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has been conducting for 6 years this historiographic study of archaeology, deepening in the knowledge of Prehispanic cultures and locating ceremonial sites, cities, buildings and sculptures.

The investigation that represented his entrance as a numerary member of the Academia Mexicana de la Historia (Mexican Academy of History) in September 2010, has been developed in archives such as the Libraries of Congress and Dumbarton Oaks, and the University of Georgetown, in Washington, D.C.; American Philosophical Society, in Philadelphia; American Museum of Natural History, in New York; University of Texas at Austin, as well as the deposits of the Parisian Museums of Louvre and Quai Branly, the National Library of France and the British Museum in London.

Lopez Lujan pointed out that Colonial images have been classified in 2 kinds: those created in the first half of the 18th century, ink and watercolor drawings with political, religious or economic motives, and those created during the second half of that century, when rotogravure began to be used.

Created in the early 18th century are the 3 Maps of San Francisco Mazapan which represent the main Prehispanic monuments at Teotihuacan, manufactured for legal reasons, to limit the regions of caciques.

These maps are located in different places: “the first one was given by American archaeologist Marshall Saville to the American Museum of Natural History in New York; the second was bought by collector Edward E. Ayer and is part of the Newberry Library in Chicago, an the third was made known by the Mexican priest Jose Maria Arreola in 1922”, explained the INAH researcher.

Codex Teotenantzin, part of the Lorenzo Boturini Collection of the National Library of Anthropology and History (BNAH), was created during the stay of the Italian historian in the New Spain, from 1736 to 1743.

This document was considered the only graphic evidence of the cult to feminine deities at the Tepeyac, where later the cult to Our Lady of Guadalupe developed. It depicted 2 bas-reliefs of feminine Mexica deities that may have been Cihuacoatl and Chicomcoatl.

Rotogravure allowed the creation of several copies of images of the same object and was used to illustrate scientific publications in the New Spain, such as Gazeta de Literatura en Mexico, created by Jose Antonio Alzate.

The divulgation organ published many illustrations of Prehispanic buildings and sculpture, as well as images that illustrated scientific articles, such as 3 colored plates about the cochineal production created by Francisco Agüera y Bustamante.

Alzate published in 1791 his studies regarding Xochicalco, the first Mesoamerican archaeological site to be explored in 1777. He added up illustrations created by an artist named Arana and Francisco Agüera.

Other important engravings made in the second half of the18th century were those created by Agüera of Coatlicue and the Sun Stone, both found at Plaza de Armas in 1790. Archaeologist Lopez Lujan mentioned that those detailed images helped Antonio de Leon y Gama to conduct his research about the findings.

Both sculptures were discovered parting from the order given by Viceroy Juan Vicente de Güemes in 1789 to the architect and town planner Ignacio de Castera, to conduct remodeling tasks at the capital of the New Spain.

Resulting from this work, great amount of Prehispanic pieces were found and not destroyed when considered “of great historical and some artistic value; many of them were used to adorn residences, street corners and hallways, or became part of private and public collections”, declared the archaeologist.

The Academy of San Carlos opened its doors in 1781 to teach arts, forming creators of drawings that represented Prehispanic sites and pieces, among them, Vicente de la Cerda, Anastasio de Echeverria, Gutierrez Lindo, Luis de Martin and Jose Feliciano Castañeda.

Jose Feliciano Castañeda, as well as other draughtsmen, sold his drawings to a French collector, being the reason why many of them are part of collections, archives and museums abroad, concluded the Archaeology Ph.D. Lopez Lujan.





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