The Old New World: Unearthing Mesoamerican Antiquity in the Art and Culture of the United States, 1839-1893.


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Department of Art History and Archaeology


Through a series of case studies, this dissertation examines how and why American artists imagined Mesoamerican antiquity from 1839 to 1893, a key period both in the development of the United States’ national identity and in archaeological investigation in Mesoamerica. Since little was known of the region’s ancient cultures before the 1820s, images of Mesoamerican antiquity varied and were shaped to serve the exigencies of many historical moments. As such, these images reveal as much about the United States as they do about the people and places of Mesoamerica. Ultimately, this study demonstrates that the artworks under investigation conveyed multivalent and ambivalent attitudes about Mesoamerica, views that emphasized the importance of the Mesoamerican past as well as the supremacy of the United States' future.