Bernal excavated much of Monte Albán, originally starting as a student of Alfonso Caso, and later led major archeological projects at Teotihuacan. In 1965 he excavated Dainzú. He was the director of Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology 1962-68 and again 1970-77. In 1965, he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Bernal was awarded the Premio Nacional in 1969. He was a founding member of the Third World Academy of Sciences in 1983.
Bernal's many publications include:
- The Olmec world. Berkeley, University of California Press. (1969)
- A history of Mexican archaeology: the vanished civilizations of Middle America (1980). London, Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-78008-0
- Paddock, J., & Bernal, I. (1966). Ancient Oaxaca; discoveries in Mexican archeology and history. Stanford, Calif, Stanford University Press.
- Bio details, Colegio Nacional (in Spanish)
- Bio details, Colegio Ignacio Bernal (in Spanish)
- Bio details, Minnesota State University
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