Zelia Nuttall papers
Scope and Contents
The correspondence includes letters from Nuttall to Putnam and to Bowditch detailing her work in Mexico and subsequently on the progress of her writings. These letters clearly illustrate the mentor relationship Putnam had with many of his students, including Nuttall. Other letters are to Putnam's secretary Frances Mead, whom Nuttall often addressed as "dear friend," and to her various publishers, bookbinders, and paper suppliers.
- 1886 - 1912
- Nuttall, Zelia (Person)
Extent1 linear feet
Biographical / Historical
Nuttall first went to Mexico for five months in 1884 with her mother, younger brother, sister, and daughter. During this time she worked for the National Museum and collected terracotta heads from San Juan Teotihuacan. After living in Baltimore for a year, she moved to Dresden, Germany, where she resided until 1899. During this period she made trips to California, Europe, and Russia. With the support of Curator F. W. Putnam, Nuttall was an Honorary Assistant in Mexican Archaeology at the Peabody Museum from 1886 until her death in 1933. In 1888 her work, "Standard or Head-Dress? An Historical Essay on a Relic of Ancient Mexico" was published as the first monograph in the first volume of the Peabody Museum Papers series. In 1902 Nuttall settled permanently in Mexico and twice visited the ruins of Yucatan. During the same year she purchased her home, Casa Alvarado, where she pursued her archaeological studies as well as her interests in Mexican gardens and botany.
Much of her work investigated early manuscripts. In 1890 in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence she re-discovered the Codex Magliabecchiano XIII.3 which she was able to publish in 1903 as "The Book of the Life of the Ancient Mexicans" (University of California). Nuttall was responsible for tracing the Zapotecan manuscript from the monastery of San Marco in Florence to its owner of the time, Lord Zouche of Hayworth. This manuscript then became known as the Codex Nuttall and was published as such in 1902 by the Peabody Museum. She continued to uncover similar manuscripts in the archives of Mexico, New York, and England.
Nuttall was a pioneering figure in her recognition of archaic (pre-Aztec) culture in Mexico and became an authority on the "sun cult" in ancient Mesoamerica and Peru. Her work "A Penitential Rite of the Ancient Mexicans" was published as the seventh monograph in the first volume of the Peabody Museum Papers series in 1904. She was a prolific writer and published many monographs, often using her knowledge of contemporary texts to buttress her work on archaeological findings. Nuttall died at Casa Alvarado, Coyoacan, Mexico, on April 12, 1933, an esteemed member of countless academic societies, an honorary Professor of Anthropology at the National Museum of Mexico, and an award-winning scholar.
- Tozzer,Alfred M. "Zelia Nuttall."American Anthropologist 35: 474-482.
- Winters, Christopher (ed.) 1991. International Dictionary of Anthropologists. pp. 513-514 Garland:New York.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Bowditch, CharlesP. (Charles Pickering), 1842-1921
- Burlen, Robert
- Hoffman,Wilhelm, 1909-
- Mead, Frances Harvey
- 2.1,2.2, 2.4, 2.5
- Putnam, F. W.(Frederic Ward), 1839-1915
- 2.1, 2.2, 2.4
- Röhl, Adolar
- Zelia Nuttall papers: A Finding Aid
- Peabody Museum of Archaeoogy and Ethnology
- EAD ID
Part of the Peabody Museum Archives Repository
The Peabody Museum Archives contains primary source materials that reflect the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic research and fieldwork since its founding in 1866. Archival collections contain photographs, documents, papers, and records of enduring value that were created or collected by the Museum, its individual affiliates, or other related entities. The collections also document the history or provenience, as well as the creation of many of the Museum’s artifact collections. To learn more about research visits at the Peabody Museum, please see https://www.peabody.harvard.edu/research-visits.
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