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COLLECTION Identifier: 2004.1.720.2

Zelia Nuttall papers

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of manuscripts and correspondence. The manuscripts are different versions of Nuttall's work on the Aztec calendrical system which she presented at various meetings of the Congress (Int.) of Americanists under the tutelage of F. W. Putnam. This work was intended to be published as the first volume of the Peabody Museum Memoirs, but Nuttall was not satisfied that it was complete and the volume was never published. Her work on the calendar was presented as numerous papers, pamphlets, and articles from 1894 through 1928.

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



1 linear feet

Biographical / Historical

Zelia Maria Magdalena Nuttall was born to an Irish father, Dr. Robert Kennedy Nuttall, and a Mexican-American mother, Magdalena Parrott Nuttall, in San Francisco on September 6, 1857. Raised in Europe, Nuttall acquired her education in France, Germany, Italy, and England, where she studied at Bedford College, London. In 1876 when Zelia was nineteen, the Nuttall family returned to San Francisco. Four years later, she married French anthropologist Alphonse Louis Pinart, whom she lived with in the West Indies, France, and Spain until 1882 when they returned to San Francisco and their only child Nadine was born. The Pinarts separated in 1884 and were divorced in 1888.

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.

  1. Tozzer,Alfred M. "Zelia Nuttall."American Anthropologist 35: 474-482.
  2. Winters, Christopher (ed.) 1991. International Dictionary of Anthropologists. pp. 513-514 Garland:New York.


The Nuttall Papers consist of two series: I. Manuscripts and II. Correspondence. The manuscripts are arranged by title and the correspondence is predominantly arranged chronologically.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Zelia Nuttall Papers were transferred to the Museum in 1912 by PM trustee Charles Bowditch. They were not accessioned because the materials document museum activities, and are thus considered part of the institutional archives.

General note

Collections records may contain language, reflecting past collecting practices and methods of analysis, that is no longer acceptable. The Peabody Museum is committed to addressing the problem of offensive and discriminatory language present in its database. Our museum staff are continually updating these records, adding to and improving content. We welcome your feedback and any questions or concerns you may want to share.

Processing Information

Sarah R. Demb, 1998; Revised: June 18, 2001
Link to catalog

Correspondent Index

The numbers that follow the names indicate box and folder locations of the related correspondence. Names that have been verified by a bibliographic utility often contain birth dates, death dates or life span dates.
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

Repository Details

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

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