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Maya | Mixtec
Language(s): French
Date: 1859-1882
Extent: 2.0 linear feet, 123 photographs
Description: A traveler, archaeologist, and photographer, Désiré Charnay (1828-1915) was one of the most important early expeditionary photographers. During his tours of Yucatan, Oaxaca, and Chiapas in 1858-1860 and 1880-1886, Charnay became one of the first to use photography in documenting the great Meso-American archaeological sites and to make ethnographic photographs of indigenous Mexicans. This collection of photographs is representative of the range of images he took of Meso-American archaeological sites during three tours of Mexico in 1858-1860 and 1880-1886. Although some of the images have suffered an unfortunate degree of fading, they convey the power and fascination that these sites held for Charnay and his contemporaries, and include some of the best early examples of the use of photography in the documentation of Mexican archaeology. The collection includes images of the sites at Tula, Teotihuacan, Iztaccihuatl, Chichen Itza, Comalcalco, and Palenque; of archaeological specimens held at the Museum of Mexico; of landscape and villages in Yucatan, Chiapas, and Oaxaca; and of a series of Lacandon, Mayan, Mixtec, and Yucatec "racial types." The collection was apparently assembled by the scientist Griffith Evans Abbot (1850-1927), who presented them to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. The 15 cartes de visite included in the collection, mostly portraits taken in Peru, Chile, and Madeira, bear an uncertain relationship to the Charnay images, and are probably present simply because they were also once owned by Abbot. All images have been digitized and are available through the APS Digital Library.
Collection: Abbot-Charnay Photograph Collection (Mss.913.72.Ab23)