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Romancing The Maya

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Overview

During Mexico's first century of independence, European and American explorers rediscovered its pre-Hispanic past. Finding the jungle-covered ruins of lost cities and artifacts inscribed with unintelligible hieroglyphs—and having no idea of the age, authorship, or purpose of these antiquities—amateur archaeologists, artists, photographers, and religious writers set about claiming Mexico's pre-Hispanic patrimony as a rightful part of the United States' cultural heritage.

In this insightful work, Tripp Evans explores why nineteenth-century Americans felt entitled to appropriate Mexico's cultural heritage as the United States' own. He focuses in particular on five well-known figures—American writer and amateur archaeologist John Lloyd Stephens, British architect Frederick Catherwood, Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the French émigré photographers Désiré Charnay and Augustus Le Plongeon. Setting these figures in historical and cultural context, Evans uncovers their varying motives, including the Manifest Destiny-inspired desire to create a national museum of American antiquities in New York City, the attempt to identify the ancient Maya as part of the Lost Tribes of Israel (and so substantiate the Book of Mormon), and the hope of proving that ancient Mesoamerica was the cradle of North American and even Northern European civilization. Fascinating stories in themselves, these accounts of the first explorers also add an important new chapter to the early history of Mesoamerican archaeology.

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Editorial Reviews

The Americas
Evans has meticulously researched his subject and writes in an elegant and clear prose style that makes his book a pleasure to read.... In short, this is an outstanding scholarly book that should be of interest to Mayanists, art historians, and students of American literature and history.
— Daniel Alarcon
The Journal of Latin American Anthropology
Romancing the Maya will be required (and enjoyable) reading for students of the Maya. And its careful analysis of visual expositions -- including the subjective uses of photography -- makes it especially appropriate for the undergraduate classroom.
— Ben W. Fallaw
The Americas - Daniel Alarcon
Evans has meticulously researched his subject and writes in an elegant and clear prose style that makes his book a pleasure to read.... In short, this is an outstanding scholarly book that should be of interest to Mayanists, art historians, and students of American literature and history.
The Journal of Latin American Anthropology - Ben W. Fallaw
Romancing the Maya will be required (and enjoyable) reading for students of the Maya. And its careful analysis of visual expositions -- including the subjective uses of photography -- makes it especially appropriate for the undergraduate classroom.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292722217
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 218
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

R. Tripp Evans
R. TRIPP EVANS is Assistant Professor of Art History at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Second Discovery of America
2. Incidents of Transcription: American Antiquity in the Work of Stephens and Catherwood
3. Joseph Smith and the Archaeology of Revelation
4. The Toltec Lens of Désiré Charnay
5. Bordering on the Magnificent: Augustus and Alice Le Plongeon in the Kingdom of Móo
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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