Zelia Nuttall

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Zelia Nuttall
Zelia Nuttall.jpg
Zelia Nuttall
BornSeptember 6, 1857
DiedApril 12, 1933(1933-04-12) (aged 75)
Casa de Alvarado, Coyoacán, Mexico
NationalityUnited States
Known forMexican archaeology
Spouse(s)Alphonse Pinart, div. 1888
ChildrenNadine Nuttall Laughton
Parent(s)Robert Kennedy Nuttall, Magdalena Parrott
RelativesGeorge Nuttall

Zelia Maria Magdalena Nuttall (September 6, 1857 – April 12, 1933) was an American archaeologist and anthropologist.


Nuttall was born in San Francisco in 1857 to Irish father Dr. Robert Kennedy Nuttall and Mexican-American mother Magdalena Parrott.[1] When she was eight years old, she was given a copy of Antiquities of Mexico, and from then on, she knew that she wanted to become an archaeologist.[2] She married the French anthropologist Alphonse Louis Pinart in 1867 and had a child, but they divorced in 1888.[3]

She specialised in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican manuscripts and the pre-Aztec culture in Mexico. She traced the Mixtec codex now called the Codex Zouche-Nuttall and wrote the introduction to its first facsimile publication.[4]

She was educated in France, Germany, and Italy, and at Bedford College, London. During Nuttall’s first trip to Mexico in 1884 with her family, she worked for the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City as an Honorary Professor of Archaeology[1] and collected terracotta heads from San Juan Teotihuacan.([5]). This was the foundation of the publication which would lead her into prominence, the "Terra Cotta Heads of Teotihuacan" for the American Journal of Archaeology (1886).[[6]] Because of this article, she was appointed Special Assistant of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard.

Nuttall also discovered the ruins of a site of human sacrifice on Isla de Sacrificios. During this expedition, her supervisor, Salvador Batres, claimed the discovery himself. She resigned from her position at the National Museum of Anthropology and wrote "The Island of Sacrificios", published in 1910 in American Anthropologist. It was a detailed account of the site's discovery and excavation which prompted the Mexican government to have Batres replaced.[2]

Outside of her work in anthropology and archaeology, Nuttall, partnered with Phoebe Hearst, worked to educate and preserve the heritage of indigenous Mexicans. One of her students was Manuel Gamio, who would eventually become one of Mexico's most famous archaeologists.She was also interested in botany, growing ancient Mexican medicinal plants and herbs.[2]

Nuttall was also said to be a gracious hostess. On one occasion, when two young men visited Nuttall in her home, her dress caught on something and came off completely as she descended a staircase. She continued with introductions while her maids promptly picked up the dress and carried it away.[2]

She was the basis for D.H. Lawrence's character Mrs. Norris in his novel The Plumed Serpent.[1]


  • Nuttall, Zelia (1886). The Terracotta Heads of Teotihuacan. Baltimore, American Journal of Archaeology. OCLC 25124813
  • Nuttall, Zelia (1888). Standard or head-dress? An historical essay on a relic of ancient Mexico. Cambridge, Mass., Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. OCLC 313707016
  • Nuttall, Zelia (1891). The atlatl or spear-thrower of the ancient Mexicans. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. OCLC 3536622.
  • Nuttall, Zelia (1901) [1901]. The fundamental principles of Old and New World civilizations : a comparative research based on a study of the Ancient Mexican religious, sociological and calendrical systems. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. OCLC 219742748.
  • Nuttall, Zelia (1983) [1903]. The book of the life of the ancient Mexicans : containing an account of their rites and superstitions : an anonymous Hispano-Mexican manuscript preserved at the Biblioteca nazionale centrale, Florence, Italy. Berkeley: University of California Press. OCLC 10719260.
  • Nuttall, Zelia (1904) [1904]. A Penitential Rite of the Ancient Mexicans. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Museum. OCLC 2991502.
  • Nuttall, Zelia (1910). The island of Sacrificios. New Era Printing Co., 1910, 39pp. (Reprinted from: American Anthropologist, vol. XII, no. 2, April–June 1910.) OCLC 29606682
  • Nuttall, Zelia; Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa; Nuno da Silva (1914) [1914]. New Light on Drake: Documents Relating to his Voyage of Circumnavigation 1577-1580. London: Hakluyt Society. OCLC 2018572.


  1. ^ a b c Adams, Amanda (2010). Ladies of the field : early women archaeologists and their search for adventure. Vancouver ; Berkeley [Calif.]: Greystone Book. pp. 65–87. ISBN 9781553654339.
  2. ^ a b c d "Zelia Nuttall: The Queen of Mexican Archaeology". Rejected Princesses. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  3. ^ "Foundations of Anthropology at the University of California". bancroft.berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  4. ^ (Peabody Museum, Harvard), 1902
  5. ^ Nuttall, Zelia; Bowditch, Charles P; Burlen, Robert; Hoffman, Wilhelm; Mead, Frances Harvey; Putnam, F. W; Röhl, Adolar; Whitehead, Gilbert; Bedford College (1886). Nuttall, Zelia, papers 1886-1912.
  6. ^ "Zelia Maria Magdalena Nuttall | American archaeologist". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-03-09.


Chiñas, Beverley Newbold (1989). "Zelia Maria Magdalena Nuttall". In Ute Gacs; Aisha Khan; Jerrie McIntyre; Ruth Weinberg. Women Anthropologists: Selected Biographies (Illini Books edition, Reprint of Westport, CT: Greenwood Press original [©1988]. ed.). Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 269–274. ISBN 0-252-06084-9. OCLC 19670310.
Tozzer, Alfred M. (July–September 1933). "Zelia Nuttall" (PDF). American Anthropologist. New Series. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association and affiliated societies. 35 (3): 475–482. doi:10.1525/aa.1933.35.3.02a00070. OCLC 1479294. Archived from the original (PDF online reproduction) on 2008-10-31.

External links[edit]