The Golden Treasures of Monte Alban: Mexican Representation and Exhibition Controversy, 1933-1936
AuthorMoss, Zahra Marie
AdvisorBeezley, William H.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn 1932, Alfonso Caso, a rising professor of anthropology and employee of the Mexican National Museum of Anthropology and History made a huge archeological discovery; a centuries old tomb in the ancient citadel of Monte Alban located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. In the months that followed the discovery the find was excavated, cleaned, cataloged and put on display. Altogether the cache consisted of hundreds of objects made of gold, precious stone, sea shells and human remains. Dubbed the Monte Alban Treasure by its discoverer, the find soon became a worldwide sensation. Public interest in a travelling exhibition exacerbated demands for the treasures public display in the United States. This dissertation traces the discovery, exhibition and consequences of the display of Monte Alban Treasures in the United States following the end of the armed phase of the Mexican Revolution. I argue that as the Revolution was in full swing, the existing new leadeship used archeology and art to dictate the cultural monikers that represented the country after the civil war. Defining the national character, establishing a cohesive cultural history and developing a visual narrative that coalesced with the governments aspirations informed the basis of the social changes fomented between 1921-1936. I argue that a series of popular art and archeological shows in Mexico and the United States in the late 1920's primed audiences for a revolutionary re-interpretation of Mexico's past that integrated indigenous populations into the history of the nation. This narrative minimized the impact and influence of European colonial powers and instead focused upon emphasizing the origins of Mexico's independent cultural identity. The display of Monte Alban Treasures in Mexico and the United States between 1922 and 1934 was part of this emergent revolutionary rhetoric. This research project explores the popular audience responses to the exhibit, but also charges alleging that the artifacts selected for display were fabricated. This twist demonstrates some of the major problems associated with using art and archeological evidence to represent broader political agendas. In this case, the Mexican government appropriated the Monte Alban Treasures, assigned them a narrative of indigenous appreciation and inclusivity and used their subsequent display to promote this abroad. This project will show how science and art were not contradicting fields of study, but fused to forge the public Revolutionary identity of Mexicans in the mid twentieth century.
Degree ProgramGraduate College