In the Shadow of Quetzalcoatl: Zelia Nuttall and the Search for Mexico’s Ancient Civilizations

Belknap. Nov. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9780674278332. $32.95. HIST
Grindle (emerita, Latin American studies, Harvard; Bureaucrats, Politicians and Peasants in Mexico) recounts the trailblazing story of archaeologist Zelia Nuttall (1857–1933). She was a highly intelligent U.S. scholar who refused to be bound by societal pressures and restrictions placed upon women. Fascinated by her mother’s homeland of Mexico, Nuttall had many research interests that ranged from the voyages of Sir Francis Drake to her seminal work on the Aztec calendar system. She traveled extensively throughout the Americas and Europe, spending countless hours in libraries and museums pouring over colonial manuscripts, translating pre-Columbian codices, and making a close study of countless artifacts. Conversant in numerous languages and friends with intellectuals and wealthy donors—philanthropist/feminist Phoebe Hearst, for example—Nuttall and her work were influential. Sadly, as the decades passed, archaeology often overlooked one of its founding mothers.
VERDICT This book does an exemplary job of conveying this distinctive story of a single mother who accomplished many wondrous things in a world and an era that were decidedly against her.
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