Smithsonian Olmec Legacy

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Matthew Stirling and Tres Zapotes Monument G. Tres Zapotes, 1939. stirling_19. Photograph by Richard H. Stewart, National Anthropological Archives

Alfonso Caso y Andrade
1896 - 1970

Portrait of Caso

Alfonso Caso was born in Mexico City. He received an M.A. in philosophy in 1918 and law degree from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in 1919. His true calling, however, was anthropology, and he began taking classes at the Museo de Antropología. In 1925, Caso received an M.A. in anthropology from UNAM.

Caso left an indelible mark as an instructor, attorney, administrator and archaeologist. He taught epistemology, Mexican archaeology, general ethnology and philosophy of law beginning in 1918. He co-founded and taught at the Escuela Nacional de Antropología from 1939 to 1943. He also co-founded the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), and was its director from 1939 to 1944. He was rector of UNAM in 1945, and served several other cultural and educational institutions as well.

Alfonso Caso became director of archaeological projects at Monte Alban, Oaxaca in 1931. Tomb 7 at Monte Alban is among his best-known finds, bringing Monte Alban to the attention of scholars and general audiences. As director of INAH, Caso was interested in the work Matthew Stirling did in Veracruz and Tabasco. He actively supported Stirling's interpretation of his finds at Tres Zapotes and La Venta. Caso, along with Miguel Covarrubias and Eduardo Noguerra sided with Stirling, asserting that the Olmec predated the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures at the meeting of the Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología in 1942.

Alfonso Caso died November 30, 1970, in Mexico City.

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