Ornamental Nationalism

Archaeology and Antiquities in Mexico, 1876-1911


In 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.

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Biographical Note
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).
Review Quotes
“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
List of Figures

 Rise of Professionalism
 Archaeology and Nationalism
 Artifacts and Authority
 Overview of the Book

Part 1

1 Nation Building
 Mexico before the Porfiriato
 Porfirio Díaz
 European Influences on the Porfiriato
 Monumentalism in Mexico
 Heir to Juárez
 Heir to the Aztecs
 Creating the Image of the Nation
 Symbols of Centralization

2 Designing the Porfiriato
 Mexico in Paris
 Aztec Patriotism: Sierra and Chavero

3 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
 Popular Culture

Part 2

4 The Inspector General and Conservator of Archaeological Monuments
 Leopoldo Batres (1852–1926)
 Batres and the Scholarly Community
 Batres’s Background
 Manuel Gamio

5 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

6 Batres Fought with All the World
 La Isla de Sacrificios: Batres and Nuttall
 Zelia Nuttall
 Isla de Sacrificios
 The National Museum

7 The Grand Tour: International Congress of Americanists, Mexico City, 1910
 Two Automobiles from Teotihuacán: Corruption
 Map from Teotihuacán
 Eugène Boban
 Batres’s Exit


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.
Index Card
Collection Information