Cover: In the Shadow of Quetzalcoatl: Zelia Nuttall and the Search for Mexico’s Ancient Civilizations, from Harvard University PressCover: In the Shadow of Quetzalcoatl in HARDCOVER

In the Shadow of Quetzalcoatl

Zelia Nuttall and the Search for Mexico’s Ancient Civilizations

Product Details


$32.95 • £28.95 • €29.95

ISBN 9780674278332

Publication Date: 11/07/2023


400 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

33 photos

Belknap Press


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Grindle combines a rousing tale of archaeological discovery with an incisive description of how institutional marginalization occurs, tracing how Nuttall’s legacy was ignored by subsequent generations of anthropologists. This enjoyable account restores to prominence an influential figure in her field.Publishers Weekly

What a woman! And what a fabulous life to unearth. Zelia Nuttall was incredibly smart, determined, a divorced single mother in a man’s world, a great scholar, and an original thinker—yet today she’s completely forgotten. Merilee Grindle has dug deep into the archives and uncovered her fascinating story.—Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature

Zelia Nuttall comes alive in all her fascinating contradictions in Merilee Grindle’s capable hands. Nuttall came of age in the nineteenth century and thought nothing of removing Mexico’s antiquities, or supporting Porfirio Díaz. But she was also a world-traveling single mother who studied Nahuatl with a native speaker, convinced Franz Boas to take Mexican students, ferreted out a previously unknown pre-Columbian codex, made a leap forward in our understanding of the Mesoamerican calendar, and chose to spend her declining years in her beloved Mexico, her mother’s native country. Grindle’s biography challenges our modern smugness and reminds us that our roots as scholars are more complex than we often acknowledge.—Camilla Townsend, author of Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

Zelia Nuttall was a major figure in the rediscovery of ancient Mexico, yet today she is barely remembered. Merilee Grindle has marshaled an impressive amount of evidence to tell Nuttall’s story afresh and restore her to her rightful place in the annals of anthropology.—Toby Wilkinson, author of A World Beneath the Sands: The Golden Age of Egyptology

As a teenager on a seemingly endless grand tour of Europe, Zelia Nuttall described her globe-trotting Californian family as ‘wanderers in the highway of nations.’ In Merilee Grindle’s deft telling, we see Nuttall grow into a brilliant and focused interpreter of the secrets of ancient nations, a founder of the modern science of anthropology, a bold female traveler on time’s highway whose life story illuminates our twenty-first-century struggle to apprehend the ravages of civilization.—Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

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