Latin America •  Biography •  Photography •  Women and Archaeology

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Yucatan Through Her Eyes: Alice Dixon Le Plongeon, Writer and Expeditionary Photographer

Lawrence Desmond

Alice Dixon (1851-1910) was born into a comfortable middle class life in London that she eagerly left behind to travel to Yucatán as the young bride of Maya archaeologist Augustus Le Plongeon. Working side by side as photographers and archaeologists, the Le Plongeons were the first to excavate and systematically photograph the Maya sites of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal. After spending eleven years in the field, she devoted the rest of her life to lecturing and published books and articles on a wide range of topics, including her exploration of Maya civilization, political activism and social justice, and epic poetry.

Alice's papers became public in 1999 and included photographs, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, and a handwritten diary; over two thousand of her prints and negatives survive today in public and private collections. Combined with Lawrence Desmond's biography of this remarkable woman's life, her diary offers readers a rare glimpse of life in the Yucatán peninsula during the final quarter of the nineteenth century, and an insider's view of fieldwork just prior to the emergence of Mesoamerican archaeology as a professional discipline.


Lawrence Gustave Desmond is senior research fellow in archaeology with the Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project at Harvard University, and a research associate with the department of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco. He is the coauthor of A Dream of Maya, a look at the life and archaeology of the early Mayanist Augustus Le Plongeon.

Claire L. Lyons is curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Since 1999 she has been a research associate at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA.


"Desmond's accessible and well-written biography has clearly placed the fascinating and dynamic Alice Dixon Le Plongeon among the roster of accomplished Victorian women."


The Americas

"...a compelling, lavishly illustrated biography..."



"...fascinating...this superb biographical book will appeal to scholars interested in the history of anthropology, gender, and scientific practice, as well as to the lay public.


Journal of Anthropological Research

"Until now, Alice Dixon Le Plongeon has been ... ignored, unknown or mysterious. ... without accomplishments of her own, without an intellectual life and without interests. The figure that emerges in Yucatan through her eyes is a very different one, the opposite: that of a woman, as Lawrence Desmond documents well, committed to making a difference in the world."


Península, National Autonomous University of Mexico

"This (biography) is the story of a truly remarkable woman of the nineteenth century."


Alquimia, National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico

"... (Alice Dixon Le Plongeon) was a nineteenth-century world traveler, an accomplished photographer and an archaeologist at a time when those professions were closed to women."


El Financiero, Mexico City

7 x 10 in. 416 pages 75 halftones, 3 maps