Archive for the ‘Ancient and modern Maya’ Category

Alice Dixon Le Plongeon. Governor's Palace, Uxmal, Yucatán. Selfie-1876. Courtesy of the Getty Open Content Program. http://www.blurb.com/b/6134743-a-catalog-of-the-19th-century-photographs-of-alice

Alice Dixon Le Plongeon. Governor’s Palace, Uxmal, Yucatán. Selfie-1876. Courtesy of the Getty Open Content Program.

This book by Lawrence G. Desmond is a catalog of 1,034 photographs taken by Alice Dixon and Augustus Le Plongeon in Yucatán, Mexico, and Belize from 1873 to 1885. Some of the photos are the first taken of Maya archaeological sites in Yucatán, and of the people of Yucatán during the 19th century.

The subjects in the photo are: Landscapes, Colonial and Ancient Maya Architecture, Portraits, and Ethnographic photos. The original photos are archived at: The American Museum of Natural History, the Donald Dixon album in London, the Getty Research Institute, the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, and the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles. In the 1990s, uplicates of the original photos were made with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (Grant RT-20746). The duplicates can be viewed at the Wilson Library of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the “Lawrence G. Desmond collection of Augustus Le Plongeon and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon Photographs.” Collection ID number: 5268.

To purchase a copy of the catalog as hardcopy, a PDF or just view all the pages go online to the web site of Blurb. Click on the link under the cover photo to go directly to the Catalog at the Blurb web site and view all the pages.

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Stuart Report 60- hieroglyhic panel blog            I regularly receive the publications of the Boundary End Archaeological Research Center that focus on the decipherment and interpretation of Maya hieroglyphics. When I received the September 2013 Report 60, “The Rise of Chak Ek’,“ I was not prepared for the amazing story behind the research.

To do justice to the “back-story” of Report 60, authored by Native American inmates in the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California, it seemed best to present the report Preface in the words of its author, archaeologist George E. Stuart.

Dr. Stuart’s (I think he would rather be called George) accomplishments in the field of Mesoamerican archaeology are well known to both professionals and the public. His many articles and books would be too long to list here, yet few outside of the profession of archaeology are aware of his quiet work as staff archaeologist for the National Geographic Society for decades until his retirement in 2001. His work brought discoveries and research about the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica to a worldwide audience.

I was always in awe Geographic’s accurate, but impactful photographs of the Maya, Aztec, Olmec, Mixtec and Zapotec (the list is long) ruins made by its photographers, but Dr. Stuart was always working behind the scenes to foster those articles, and to be certain the writers and photographers had it right. Report 60 is again representative of his quiet and persistent work that resulted in an important contribution to the study of Maya writing by prison inmates who were written off by some in this society—those shortsighted persons were wrong.

For a copy of Report 60, “The Rise of Chak Ek’,“ or any of the other many publications of BEARC online, go to: Boundary End Archaeological Resource Center

Stuart Report 60 cover blog

        “FOR MORE THAN A DECADE the Center for Maya Research and its successor, the Boundary End Archaeology Research Center, have taken part in a remarkable and productive relationship with a group of Native American inmates serving time in the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California, and other prisons in the state.

The story began in 2001, when Barry A. Bausman, also known by his Cherokee name, Uguku Usdi (“Little Owl”), and some fellow prisoners took an interest in the ancient Maya calendar and in astronomy. This came after they read Michael D. Coe’s 1999 classic, “Breaking the Maya Code.” Uguku Usdi was so captivated by this history of the decipherment of the Maya hieroglyphic script that he wrote a letter of inquiry to the people mentioned in the text or bibliography who were likely still alive. I responded, and thus began an exchange of letters and telephone calls that continues to this day. The correspondence file is now more than a foot thick, and growing.

Uguku Usdi and the study group he founded had begun work on the astronomical and calendrical content of the Maya codices with a total lack of source material. Thus, my first task was clear – to provide some basic references.

At the time I received Uguku Usdi’s first letter (forwarded from National Geographic, shortly after my retirement), I was in the midst of sorting books – my own library of some 7,000 volumes along with about that same number from the library of the late Matthew W. Stirling, the gift of his widow, Marion Stirling Pugh.

As one might imagine, many duplicates came to light each day. These I set aside for the group. Hardback books, forbidden to go directly to prisoners, I shipped to prison chaplain Ricardo Duran, who placed them in his office library; paperbacks I sent (in packages conforming to strict limits of content and weight) directly to Uguku Usdi’s cell block. Soon, the prisoners had access, not only to the best reproductions of the codices themselves, but also to complete sets of our own Center’s special publications and serials- Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing and Ancient America, along with papers by scholars, past and present, who had written on Maya astronomy and the calendar.

The letters that came back were both encouraging and, at times, somewhat discouraging. Uguku Usdi’s vivid descriptions of the In Lak’ech Study Group (as they called themselves) sitting around in the yard of Cell Block 4 reading papers by John Teeple, Floyd Lounsbury, David Stuart, and others were wonderful. Nonetheless heartening were the stories of frequent “lockdowns,” when the prisoners, confined to their cells, had to rely upon Maya hieroglyph flash cards held outside the bars for the response of others of the group who could see them!

Soon, the In Lak’ech Study Group began to produce papers. Eventually these reached more than a dozen in number. These I shared with colleagues who specialized in the topics involved, particularly Mayanist Bruce Love of Littlerock, California, and Professor Anthony F. Aveni of Colgate University, Hamilton, New York. Both agreed that the paper presented here deserved publication. Thus, I offer it here as the final print issue of the Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing, nearly 30 years after the appearance of Number One.

For co-authors Uguku Usdi, Alberto Saa, and Christopher Wehunt and their colleagues, this is an achievement of the first order, accomplished in the face of almost unimaginable odds. As is the case with all inmates, these men had neither e-mail nor access to the Internet. And if that were not enough, the continuing movement of prisoners among California’s hideously overcrowded facilities now separates the members of the In Lak’ech Study Group. We are honored to publish this result of their determined efforts.”

George Stuart

June 2013

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Maya musicians playing at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico. 2013. Pic: Milbrath

Maya musicians playing at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico. 2013.      Pic: Milbrath

           Professor Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology for the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, presented her paper, “Agro-astronomical evidence among the ancient Maya” at the colloquium “La relación sociedad- naturaleza entre los mayas” held in the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico on October 18.

           Prof. Milbrath’s paper is a new exploration of the role of Venus and solar eclipse cycles in Maya agronomy. Maya agricultural cycles today indicate that observations of the sun and moon, and the Pleiades remain important, but her study also documents observations of Venus and solar eclipses in relation to agricultural cycles in the Madrid Codex, suggesting a sophisticated form of agro-astronomy in ancient Maya agricultural almanacs.

Abstract of the paper–

“La Evidencia Agro-astronómica Entre los Antiguos Maya”

En los c6dices mesoamericanos, Venus está estrechamente vlnculada con el ciclo solar, en almanaques que integran cinco ciclos de Venus, con ocho años solares, en los que este planeta vuelve a la misma posición en eo relación con el añio solar, cada ocho añios. El uso de este almanaque se extiende desde el centro de México hasta el área maya, y al parecer se originó en el período Preclásico Tardio.

Es evidente que las fases de Venus y eventos de esta naturaleza, fueron seguidos de cerca, en re!aci6n con el ciclo de siembra, lo que refleja una forma de agro-astronomía que sólo estamos empezando a comprender.

Article in the Diario de Yucatan

An article about Prof. Milbrath’s paper was published in the Merida newspaper Diario de Yucatán on October 19, 2013. The article can be accessed by clicking on this link: Diario de Yucatán- Valoran el sistema agroastronómico maya 19 Oct 2013

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I just published a memoir; well I should say the book was self-published. It was a great experience learning how to design my own book, and since I made lots of revisions it was nice having the total control. But, why post a notice of a book about my life in the Coast Guard on a blog dedicated to the archaeology and culture of Mesoamerica?

Here is the background— In the late 1950s I was a young officer assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Avoyel near Eureka, California. We carried out search-and-rescue missions, and the bringing of crews and supplies to St. George Reef Lighthouse six miles off the coast from Crescent City, California.

St. George Reef Lighthouse, and small boat from Cutter Avoyel. Pic: Desmond 1959

Around 1959, a new officer named Walt Hake arrived for duty, and he andI became good friends. I was single, and it was pretty isolated being on two-hour standby status in a small logging and fishing town six hours north of San Francisco. So Walt and his wife Dorothy, and their four kids more-or-less adopted me. It was great for my morale being an honorary member of their family, and joining them for dinners and other family events.

Coast Guard Cutter Avoyel leaving San Francisco Bay. Pic: Coast Guard. 1959.

This is where archaeology comes in— “One day Walt and I were in the ship’s wardroom doing some paperwork, and Walt mentioned that he’d just gotten a letter from a friend who was going to school in Mexico City. She had written him about the classes in archaeology she was taking at Mexico City College, and for some reason he thought I should read it. I did, and that letter changed the course of my life. Then and there I began to think seriously about studying archaeology. I was in no position to make any changes, but in 1970 I enrolled in the very college Walt’s friend had written about.” (From the Desmond book: Blue Water and Rocky Lights. My life in the U.S. Coast Guard– 1957-1960. Available from Blurb, 2012)

I then wrote Walt’s friend a couple letters and she sent me information on Mexico City College, stories about her courses and adventures, and with that I was hooked on going to school in Mexico. As many of you know, the greats of archaeology taught at Mexico City College in those days. When I began my studies in Mexico in 1970, Mexico City College had morphed into the Universidad de las Américas and moved to Puebla. I attended UDLA for three years and got my MA in anthropology—it was one of best decisions of my life.

However, the story does not end here. During the 1960s I was working in Silicon Valley, and while no longer on active duty I was in the Coast Guard Reserve. In 1966, I heard that the Cutter Gresham’s destination for a two-week training cruise was Mazatlán, so I signed up. Oddly, while I had already decided to go to school in Mexico, I had never been there—well, maybe that is how 20 year olds do things!

Lt Lawrence G. Desmond on watch as CGC Gresham approaches Mazatlán harbor. 1966.

A couple days ashore in Mazatlán: “Since I couldn’t speak much Spanish, I found an English speaking Mexican student who showed me the highlights of the city. I met his family, and he took me to a couple nearby villages where people were making small painted animal figures and pottery for the tourists. I convinced him to drive me to some archaeological ruins located a few miles down the coast. While they turned out to be no more than small mounds, seeing them gave my plans for a career in archaeology a big boost.” (From the Desmond book: Blue Water and Rocky Lights. My life in the U.S. Coast Guard– 1957-1960. Available from Blurb, 2012)

Those few days in Mazatlán also motivated me to take a course in Spanish later that year in Mexico City, and after that I spent a week checking out the archaeology in northern Mexico. I was really motivated, so between jobs in 1967 I flew again to Mexico City, and hitched a ride to Yucatán with a buddy to see the ancient Maya ruins first hand, and the rest is history.

So, who was the woman who had written the life changing letter? Well, a few years ago I began to wonder, but had waited too long. Walt and Dorothy had died. And, while I tracked down their family, they had never heard of any connection their parents had with Mexico, so it will have to remain an unsolved mystery.

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 A Critique of the Wikipedia Augustus Le Plongeon article

Lawrence G. Desmond, PhD

Wikipedia published the following statement about its Augustus Le Plongeon article:

This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations where appropriate (April 2009). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus_Le_Plongeon)

Background on Augustus and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon

The problem—The biggest difficulty for historians of archaeology in any study of the Le Plongeons is distinguishing fact from fiction in writings about the Le Plongeons. Published material abounds that has not been fact checked, so it is important that references be provided.

And much published secondary source material is out of date. It is suggested that authors consult the recently acquired papers of Alice Dixon Le Plongeon archived at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. In that collection are also additional papers of Augustus Le Plongeon previously unavailable.

Augustus Le Plongeon’s (1826-1908) close collaboration with Alice Dixon Le Plongeon (1851-1910)

The article should more fully explain the professional collaboration of Augustus and Alice Le Plongeon. Alice was responsible for the Le Plongeons’ photographic darkroom work, and was behind the camera for a good part of their photography in Yucatán. She co-directed with Augustus the excavation of the Platform of Venus, and the excavation of the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars at Chichén Itzá. The Le Plongeons jointly developed archaeological theories about the ancient Maya, and Alice edited virtually all of Augustus’ letters and published worksThe collaboration of Alice and Augustus in photography and archaeology, and their development of theories about ancient Maya civilization are brought up to date in: Yucatan through her eyes. Alice Dixon Le Plongeon, writer and expeditionary photographer (2009). Scholarly reviews of the biography provide additional perspectives and can be accessed on ArchaeoPlanet Blog (https://archaeoplanet.wordpress.com/).

Alice Dixon Le Plongeon’s place in Maya studies has recently been noted by a number of scholars including emeritus professor of anthropology James R. McGoodwin at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“[The book Yucatán through her eyes] is special and rare precisely because it is about a woman carving out her place in a realm heretofore thought to be inhabited only by rugged men wearing pith helmets and tall leather boots, sitting at their writing tables amid the ruins and smoking their pipes. Move over Stephens, Catherwood, Maudslay, Thompson, Morley, and all the other Old School Mayanists, and make room for Alice Dixon!” [James R. McGoodwin, Review dated: August 24, 2011.]

Critique of the article

Summary: The Wikipedia article requires a number of corrections, and needs to be brought up to date. Words in Spanish should include accent marks.


The Wikipedia article states:

“Le Plongeon has been identified as an early practitioner of psychic archaeology and his wife Alice Dixon Le Plongeon had an avid interest in mesmerism, séance, and the occult.”

Correction: Augustus Le Plongeon was an early Maya archaeologist, Americanist or Mayanist. 

Reference: The statement that Augustus was an “early practitioner of psychic archaeology” requires a reference.

Explanation needed: The historical development and practice of “psychic archaeology” for the periods “early” to current should be summarized, as should be the archaeological methodology practiced by Augustus and Alice at Chichén Itzá and Uxmal.

Reference: The statement that Alice had an “avid interest in Mesmerism… and the occult” requires a reference.

Correction: Alice was a practicing Spiritualist, and attended Spiritualist séances that were popular in America and England after the mid-nineteenth century.

The Wikipedia article states:

“In general, his [Augustus’] theories were considered to be somewhat outlandish by near-contemporaries and later Mayanist scholars such as Désiré Charnay, Teobert Maler, and Alfred Maudslay, and he is regarded today as one of the more eccentric characters to have worked in the field.”

Correction: Désiré Charnay (1828-1915) was a contemporary of the Le Plongeons and not a “later Mayanist.” He carried out photographic projects in México in the 1860s and during the time the Le Plongeons worked in Yucatán. In the 1860s during the French intervention, and after, etchings of his photographs were used to illustrate his popular books on the ancient ruins of México.

Correction: Désiré Charnay was not a “Mayanist scholar” or member of the academy, and was refused an academic appointment in Paris. He was an expeditionary photographer, explorer, and writer.

Explanation: In 1885, Daniel Brinton (1837-1899), professor of archaeology and linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote that the discoveries of the Le Plongeons “correct, in various instances, the hasty deductions of Charnay…” (American Antiquarian 1885:378). In his diary, Alfred Maudslay (1850-1931) wrote Désiré Charnay “does not strike me as a scientific traveler,” and “was thirsting for glory” (Ian Graham, Alfred Maudslay, 2002:102). Maudslay was equally negative concerning Charnay’s writings about the Maya. Both Brinton and Maudslay strongly disagreed with the Le Plongeons’ theory that Maya civilization was older than Egypt civilization.

Correction: Scholar, photographer, and archaeologist Teobert Maler (1842-1917) was a contemporary of the Le Plongeons. He was in México in the 1870s, and again in the 1880s after the Le Plongeons departed, and carried out important site documentation, photography, and archaeological analysis published by the Peabody Museum at Harvard University.

Correction: Alfred Maudslay (1850-1931) was a contemporary of the Le Plongeons and investigated the Maya city of Yaxchilán, Chiapas, México when the Le Plongeons were in Yucatán. He continued his work in the Maya area for many years after the Le Plongeons departed in 1884.

Reference: A reference is needed for the statement: “[Augustus] is regarded today as one of the more eccentric characters to have worked in the field.”

Omission of Alice Dixon Le Plongeon: Alice Dixon Le Plongeon’s contribution to the theory that the ancient Maya founded Egyptian civilization has been omitted. Alice and Augustus collaborated closely in the development of that theory.

The Wikipedia article states:

“However, as a pioneer in producing photographic records of Maya sites and inscriptions, Le Plongeon’s works and images retain at least a curio value to later researchers and in several cases preserve the appearance of sites and objects that were subsequently damaged.”

Contradiction: In its introductory paragraph, the article states that Augustus Le Plongeon’s photographs have “curio value.” Further on in a section titled “Theories and later career” the assessment is changed to: “… his over 500 photos still remain an important contribution to American archaeology.”

Reference: The many published articles by the Le Plongeons about photography, and articles about the Le Plongeons’ photography can be quoted and referenced.

Correction: The total number of Le Plongeon photographs may be as many as 700. A Le Plongeon photo album, part of the Fundación Cultural Televisa collection and titled Yucatán ilustrado. Ruinas, México, 1876, has been recently been put on exhibit. It has 101 prints made by Alice Dixon Le Plongeon and is currently under study.

Background: The Le Plongeons took hundreds of stereo 3-D photographs of Maya archaeological sites, ethnographic subjects, and landscapes in Yucatán and Belize from 1873 to 1884. The Le Plongeons’ photographs were made using wet collodion glass plate negatives with a long tonal range, and the photos are the first systematic and detailed record of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal. Their architectural photos are useful to art historians, architects, and building conservators for analysis. They are also used for 3-D close-range photogrammetric analysis to generate scaled architectural drawings. Their photos of Belize may be the first taken in that ex-British colony. There are approximately 2,500 Le Plongeon photographic prints archived in public and private collections.

The Wikipedia article states:

“Le Plongeon was born on the island of Jersey on May 4, 1825. He attended and graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.”

Correction: Augustus Le Plongeon was born May 4, 1826.

Correction: Augustus Le Plongeon did not graduate from l’Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, and there is no record of his attendance.

The Wikipedia article states:

“While in London he [Augustus] met and married Alice Dixon…”

Correction: Augustus married Alice Dixon in New York in 1873.

The Wikipedia article states:

“Augustus Le Plongeon also had the opportunity to learn the technology of creating photographic negatives directly from the father of modern photography, William Fox Talbot in 1873.”

Correction: Augustus learned new photographic methods from William Henry Fox Talbot in 1851.

The Wikipedia article states:

“After he had made what he considered to be a complete comparative study of Maya and Egyptian religion, linguistics, and architecture, he [Augustus] concluded that Maya culture had been diffused throughout Southeast Asia by Maya travelers who then went on to the lost continent of Atlantis and subsequently the Middle East to found Egyptian civilization.”

Correction and clarification: Over a period of 30 years Augustus and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon proposed a number of routes that Maya “colonists” might have taken to the Nile Valley. One route was to Southeast Asia, then through South Asia, and into the Middle East ending in the Nile Valley; a second route was across the Atlantic Ocean; a third proposed the Maya traveled from Yucatán to the continent of Atlantis and continued on to the Nile Valley; and a fourth proposed that the Maya were actually Atlantans and separate groups of Atlantan-Maya migrated from Atlantis to Yucatán and to the Nile Valley. Alice Dixon Le Plongeon put forward the latter migration route after Augustus’ death and wrote an epic poem, A Dream of Atlantis (The Word magazine 1909-11) in which she presents Maya life in Atlantis and its destruction.

The Wikipedia article states:

“While most archaeologists of the early and mid-nineteenth century thought Maya civilization postdated Egyptian civilization, the chronologies were still relatively uncertain and Le Plongeon’s theory found some adherents.”


“By the 1880s, while other Mayanists fully accepted that the Maya postdated Ancient Egypt, Le Plongeon refused to yield to the new findings.”

Correction: During the 19th century most scholars assumed that Maya civilization postdated Egypt, but there was little archaeological evidence to support that hypothesis. It was not until the 1930s that scholars were finally able to say with certainty that Maya civilization developed later than Egyptian civilization.

Explanation: In the late 19th century, once the Egyptian hieroglyphic system was deciphered dating of Egyptian civilization soon followed. The first step in the development of a chronology for Maya civilization was the use of archaeological stratigraphy to determine its age relative to the other major civilizations of Mesoamerica. A relative chronology was delineated during the first decades of the 20th century. During the same period, scholars worked to decipher the Maya calendric system. By the mid-1930s the Maya calendar was understood and correlated with the Julian calendar. Scholars were then able to say with certainty that Maya civilization reached its zenith during the Common Era (CE) and postdated Egypt. After World War II, C-14 and thermal luminescence dating provided absolute dates for many additional aspects of Maya civilization.

The Wikipedia article states:

“He [Augustus] named kings and queens of these dynasties, and said that various artworks were portraits of such ancient royalty (such as the famous Chacmool, which was excavated by Le Plongeon at Chichen Itza). He and his wife reconstructed a detailed but fanciful story of Queen Moo and Prince Coh (also known as “Chac Mool”) in which Prince Coh’s death resulted in the erection of monuments in his honor ….”

Omission of Alice Dixon Le Plongeon: Alice Dixon Le Plongeon was a major contributor to what the Le Plongeons’ believed to be an historical account of the lives of Maya Queen Móo and Prince Coh (aka Chacmool).

Explanation: The Le Plongeons’ history of the Maya was one generation in depth, and was based on the iconography they found on buildings at Chichén Itzá and Uxmal. Like most archaeologists of the 19th century, the Le Plongeons had almost no knowledge of the subsurface cultural stratigraphy of Yucatán or the Nile Valley. Once the stratigraphy was excavated in the 20th century a long period of development that preceded the civilizations observed on the surface was revealed. But, lacking knowledge of a developmental sequence, the only conclusion possible for the Le Plongeons was that civilization had to have come to Yucatán and to the Nile Valley fully developed.

The Wikipedia article states:

“Le Plongeon wrote that the sites of the central lowlands were not Maya at all, but were built by a different people much later than the sites of Yucatán. For example, he attributed the construction of Palenque to people from Polynesia.”

Correction: Palenque is not located in the central Maya lowlands.

Reference: A reference is needed for the statement “he attributed the construction of Palenque to people from Polynesia.”

Explanation: Alice and Augustus studied Frederick Catherwood’s illustrations of Maya central lowland sculpture and iconography as well as the photos and drawings of other scholars including Alfred Maudslay. They rightly argued that the style of architecture, hieroglyphs, and iconography at Yaxchilán, and other sites in that region was different from northern Yucatán. But, they were unable to accept a broader geographical range for Maya civilization that incorporated local cultural variation because their theory of Maya civilization and its diffusion to the Nile Valley excluded all art and architecture that did not conform to the art and architecture of Northern Yucatán.


Published books and papers about Augustus and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon by Lawrence G. Desmond, Ph.D.

Note: The full text of all materials listed in this bibliography (excluding Augustus Le Plongeon: Early Maya archaeologist and Yucatán through her eyes) can be read at:   http://maya.csueastbay.edu/archaeoplanet/

Books, doctoral dissertation, catalog of photographs

1983  Augustus Le Plongeon: Early Maya Archaeologist. Doctoral dissertation.  Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 3592.

1988  A Dream of Maya: Alice and Augustus Le Plongeon in Nineteenth Century Yucatán, University of New Mexico Press.  Co-authored by Phyllis M. Messenger.

2005  The nineteenth century photographs of Alice Dixon Le Plongeon and Augustus Le Plongeon.  A catalog of collections from: American Museum of Natural History, Donald Dixon Album, Getty Research Institute, Peabody Museum at Harvard University, Philosophical Research Society. Includes: Preface, Acknowledgements, Introduction to the Collections, 416 pages, and data entries for 1,054 images. Adobe PDF.

2009 Yucatán through her eyes.  Alice Dixon Le Plongeon–writer and expeditionary photographer. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Published papers

1988 Work in Progress: Enchanted Ground. In Mesoamerica: The Journal of Middle America, Vol. 1, No. 2, P. 10, Mérida, Yucatán, México.

1989 Augustus Le Plongeon and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon: Early Photographic Documentation at Uxmal, Yucatán, México. In Mesoamerica: The Journal of Middle America, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 27-31, Mérida, Yucatán, México.

1989 Augustus Le Plongeon and Alice Dixon: Early Fieldwork in the Puuc Region of Yucatán, México.  In, Juan Antonio Siller, Ed., Cuadernos en Arquitectura Mesoamericana, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Vol. 11, Series Arquitectura Maya No. 5, September, pp. 11-15.

1991 Registro fotogrametrico de la Pirámide del Adivino, Uxmal, Yucatán, México: Evaluación de campo, 1990.  In, Lorena Mirambell S., Ed., Consejo de Arqueología Boletín, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, pp. 75-74.

1989 Of Facts and Hearsay: Bringing Augustus Le Plongeon into focus.  In, Andrew L. Christenson, Ed., Tracing Archaeology’s Past, Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 139-150.

1996 Rediscovery: Exploration and Documentation.  In, Jane Turner, Ed., The Dictionary of Art, Vol. 21, Part X, pp. 262-264.

1999 Augustus Le Plongeon: A fall from archaeological grace.  In Alice B. Kehoe and Mary Beth Emmerichs, Eds., Assembling the Past: Studies in the Professionalization of Archaeology, University of New Mexico University Press, pp. 81-90.

2001 Chacmool. In, David Carrasco, Ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, 3 Vols., New York, Oxford University Press, Vol.1, pp. 168-169.

2001 Augustus Le Plongeon (1826-1908): Early Mayanist, archaeologist, and photographer. In, David Carrasco, Ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures, 3 Vols.,  New York, Oxford University Press, Vol. 2, pp. 117-118.

2001 Prologue by Lawrence G. Desmond and Jaime Litvak King to Spanish translation of Alice Dixon Le Plongeon’s book Here and There in Yucatan.  In, Aquí y Allá en Yucatán. translation by Stella Mastrangelo Puech. México: Mirada Viajera.

2007 A historical overview of recording architecture at the ancient Maya city of Uxmal, Yucatán (México), 1834 to 2007.  In, Philippe Della Casa and Elena Mango, Eds., Panorama: Imaging ruins of the Greek and Maya worlds.  Zurich: Archaeological Institute, University of Zurich, pp. 6-13.

2008 Excavation of the Platform of Venus, Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, México: The pioneering fieldwork of Alice Dixon Le Plongeon and Augustus Le Plongeon. In, Paul Schmidt Schoenberg, Edith Ortiz Díaz, Joel Santos Ramírez, Eds., Tributo a Jaime Litvak King. México: UNAM, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, pp. 155-165.

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Phillip Hofstetter, chair of the department of art at California State University East Bay, has recently published a book of enchanting and eye bending photographic panoramas of Maya archaeological sites.

Maya Yucatán: An Artist’s Journey

Author: Phillip Hofstetter; Foreword: David Freidel


“Before ever setting out on my adventures in Yucatán I did not know that I was preparing to walk a spiritual path in that ancient country. Before going there I had not taken much account of my yearning to seek out sacred places. But in Yucatán I discovered this longing for wandering among the people and landscapes of the peninsula. I eventually understood that there was an invisible spirit world of the Maya that animated their stories, their ancient ruins, and all their works from two thousand years of civilization in that ancient land.”–from Maya Yucatán. 

Phillip Hofstetter first visited Yucatán in 1987 and was entranced, as much by the sheer physical beauty of the region as by the enduring character of the Maya people still inhabiting the region. For more than twenty years he has been documenting his travels in Yucatán and his professional collaboration with archaeological excavation projects there. His reflections on the Maya culture emphasize survival and adaptation, while images of ancient sites, the churches of the Franciscan mission period, and the ruined haciendas of the henequen period serve as physical reminders of the enduring ways in which the Maya have shaped the landscape of Yucatán over millennia.

Hardback- 11 x 9 in., 160 pages, 102 color and black-and-white photographs, 1 drawing, 2 maps.

University of New Mexico Press

ISBN 978-0-8263-4694-0

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Jesse Lerner, filmmaker and curator, and professor in the Intercollegiate Media Studies program of the Claremont Colleges has just published his new and insightful book that examines visual interpretations of the “mysterious” Maya “characterized by a continuing series of reinterpretations, collaborations, and exchanges in which Yucatecans, Mexicans and foreigners, mestizos, Mayas, and others all participate and are free to endorse, misunderstand, reinterpret, or reject each other’s ideas.”

The Maya of Modernism: Art, Architecture, and Film 


From the time when archaeologists first began to discover the civilization’s spectacular ruins, Mexico’s Mayan past has been a boundless source of inspiration, ideas, and iconography for the modernist imagination. This study examines the ways artists, architects, filmmakers, photographers, and other producers of visual culture in Mexico, the United States, Europe, and beyond have mined Mayan history and imagery.

Beginning his study in the mid-nineteenth century, with the first mechanically reproduced and mass distributed images of the Mayan ruins, and ending with recent works that address this history of representation, Lerner argues that Maya modernism is the product of an ongoing pan-American modernism characterized by a continuing series of reinterpretations, collaborations, and exchanges in which Yucatecans, Mexicans and foreigners, mestizos, Mayas, and others all participate and are free to endorse, misunderstand, reinterpret, or reject each other’s ideas.

Hardback– 6 x 9 in., 224 pages, 24 halftones

ISBN-10: 0826349811

ISBN-13: 978-0826349811

University of New Mexico Press, 2011

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My old friend Merle passed away on April 22, and I’ll miss her. Below are three obituaries that will give you some small idea of her life and work.

Merle Greene Robertson, 1913–2011 – Memorial by the M. H. de Young Museum, San Francisco

Merle Greene Robertson, 1913-2011 – Memorial by Mesoweb Reports

Merle Greene Robertson, key Mayan researcher, obituary in San Francisco Chronicle May 29, 2011

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