Ornamental Nationalism: Archaeology and Antiquities in Mexico, 1876-1911, Seonaid Valiant examines the Porfirian government’s reworking of indigenous, particularly Aztec, images to create national symbols. She focuses in particular on the career of Mexico's first national archaeologist, Inspector General Leopoldo Batres. He was a controversial figure who was accused of selling artifacts and damaging sites through professional incompetence by his enemies, but who also played a crucial role in establishing Mexican control over the nation's archaeological heritage.
Exploring debates between Batres and his rivals such as the anthropologists Zelia Nuttall and Marshall Saville, Valiant reveals how Porfirian politicians reinscribed the political meaning of artifacts while social scientists, both domestic and international, struggled to establish standards for Mexican archaeology that would undermine such endeavors.
Seonaid Valiant, Ph.D. (University of Chicago, History, 2014) is the Curator for Latin American Studies at Arizona State University. Her most recent publication is
A Great Rascal: Leopoldo Batres and the Map of Teotihuacán (Mapline, 2017).
“The author deftly weaves together what appear to be disparate threads of inquiry into a very valuable intellectual history of Mesoamerican studies and Mexican politics. This book, written in an accessible style, is both informative and surprisingly entertaining.
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; professionals.”
Jeff Seibert, in:
Choice, Vol. 55, No. 9 (May 2018).
Table of contents
Acknowledgments List of Figures
Introduction Rise of Professionalism
Archaeology and Nationalism
Artifacts and Authority
Overview of the Book
Nation Building Mexico before the Porfiriato
European Influences on the Porfiriato
Monumentalism in Mexico
Heir to Juárez
Heir to the Aztecs
Creating the Image of the Nation
Symbols of Centralization
Designing the Porfiriato Mexico in Paris
Aztec Patriotism: Sierra and Chavero
Rag of Barbarism: Aztecs and Mayas in International Thought (1804–1911) Shifting Ideas
Baron Alexander von Humboldt
Humboldt’s Influence on other Archaeologists
Translating the Mayas: John Lloyd Stephens
Iroquois of the South: Prescott and Morgan
The Inspector General and Conservator of Archaeological Monuments Antiquities
Leopoldo Batres (1852–1926)
Batres and the Scholarly Community
Batres in the Field Policing Archaeological Zones
Saville Seeks Access
Escalerillas: The Street of Staircases
The 1902 International Congress of Americanists in New York City
Thompson in the Yucatán
Batres at Teotihuacán
Batres Fought with All the World La Isla de Sacrificios: Batres and Nuttall
Isla de Sacrificios
The National Museum
The Grand Tour: International Congress of Americanists, Mexico City, 1910 Two Automobiles from Teotihuacán: Corruption
Map from Teotihuacán
All interested in the history of nationalism and the professionalization of archaeology, and its relationship to setting methodological standards and determining the use of indigenous symbols as political symbols in Mexico.