Bandelier, Adolf F(rancis) 1840-1914

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BANDELIER, Adolf F(rancis) 1840-1914


Born August 6, 1840 in Bern, Switzerland; died March 18, 1914, in Seville, Spain; son of Adolph Eugene (a banker) and Marie (Senn) Bandelier; married Josephine Huegy, January 5, 1861 (deceased 1892); married Fanny Ritter (a linguist), December 1893. Education: Studied law, 1886.


Worked in father's bank, 1854-81; freelance writer and lecturer on American anthropology c. 1870s; archaeological reviewer for Nation 1876-92; writer, 1881-1914. Historiographer of Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition; lecturer at American Museum of Natural History, 1903-06; lecturer in Spanish-American literature at Columbia University, 1904; lecturer at Hispanic Society of America; staff member, Museum of New Mexico and School of American Archaeology, 1909-11; research assistant at Carnegie Institute, 1911.


Historical Introduction to Studies among the Sedentary Indians of New Mexico and a Visit to the Aboriginal Ruins in the Valley of the Rio Pecos, A. Williams (Boston, MA), 1881, published as An Archaeological Reconnaissance into Mexico, Cupples & Hurd (Boston, MA), 1883.

Report of an Archaeological Tour in Mexico, in 1881, Cupples, Upham (Boston, MA), 1884.

La decouverte du Nouveau-Mexique, par le moine franciscain frere Marcos, de Nice en 1539, Leroux (Paris, France), 1886, translated and edited by Madeleine Turrell Rodack as The Discovery of New Mexico by the Franciscan Monk, Friar Marcos de Niza, in 1539, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 1981.

Contributions to the History of the Southwestern Portion of the United States, John Wilson (Cambridge, MA), 1890.

The Delight Makers, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1890.

Final Report of Investigations among the Indians of the Southwestern United States, Carried on Mainly in the Years from 1880 to 1885, 2 volumes, John Wilson (Cambridge, MA), 1890-1892.

The Gilded Man (El Dorado) and Other Pictures of the Spanish Occupancy of America, Appleton (New York, NY), 1893.

(Editor) The Journey of Alvar Nuez Cabeza de Vaca and His Companions from Florida to the Pacific, 1528-1536, Barnes (New York, NY), 1905.

The Islands of Titicaca and Koati, Hispanic Society of America (New York, NY), 1910.

(Collected with Fanny R. Bandelier) Historical Documents relating to New Mexico, Nueva Vizcaya, and Approaches Thereto, to 1773, 3 volumes, edited by Charles Wilson Hackett, Carnegie Institution (Washington, DC), 1923-1937.

(With Edgar L. Hewitt) Indians of the Rio Grande Valley, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1937.

The Southwestern Journals of Adolph F. Bandelier, edited by Charles H. Lange and Carroll L. Riley, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), Volume I: 1880-1882, 1966, Volume II: 1883-1884, 1970, Volume III, edited with Elizabeth M. Lange: 1885-1888, 1975, Volume IV, edited with Elizabeth M. Lange: 1889-1892, 1984

A History of the Southwest: A Study of the Civilization and Conversion of the Indians in Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico from theEarliest Times to 1700, 2 volumes, edited by Ernest J. Burrus, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, Italy), 1969-1987.

Contributor to annual reports of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology; contributor to periodicals, including Journal of American Ethnology and Archaeology, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, American Anthropologist, and Harper's Monthly.


Pioneers in American Anthropology: The Bandelier-Morgan Letters, 1873-1883, 2 volumes, edited by Leslie A. White, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1940.

The Unpublished Letters of Adolf F. Bandelier concerning the Writing and Publication of "The Delight Makers," edited by Paul Radin, Charles P. Everitt (New York, NY), 1942.

A Scientist on the Trail: Travel Letters of A. F. Bandelier, 1880-1881, edited by George P. Hammond and Edgar F. Goad, Quivira Society (Berkeley, CA), 1949.

Correspondencia de Adolfo F. Bandelier, edited by Leslie A. White and Ignacio Bernal, Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia (Mexico City, Mexico), 1960.


Adolf F. Bandelier is best known for his archaeological studies of the American Southwest. In both fiction and scholarship, he used painstaking investigation to question stereotypes of Native American culture. Though Bandelier often wrote with the patronizing language common among some naturalists of his day, his work was still a huge step toward understanding Native American culture; for this he is considered the father of New Archaeology, as well as a pioneer in Southwestern American Archaeology.

Bandelier was born in Bern, Switzerland, on August 6, 1840, to an educated and well-to-do couple. His father, Adolph Eugene Bandelier, was a banker and educator; when he and his wife, Marie Senn Bandelier, moved to Highland, Illinois, he became the first president of the town's literary society. The younger Bandelier, however, began life without literary pretensions. He left school to work at his father's bank in 1854, and by 1861 he had married Josephine Huegy, the daughter of one of his father's partners.

Even as Bandelier toiled at his father's business, he began to write about natural science, for which he had an amateur's interest. Throughout the 1870s, Bandelier wrote and lectured as an historian and naturalist; while researching this work, he discovered the Americana collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library and the book Chronica Mexicana by Fernando Alvarado Tezozomo. After years spent translating and studying this work, Bandelier reinvented himself as an expert on Southwestern culture.

During the 1870s Bandelier also befriended Lewis H. Morgan, an important anthropologist who helped him develop his theories about Native American society. Since Morgan believed that American Indians were "primitive" because they lacked a European aristocracy, Bandelier eventually incorporated this view into his own theories. Bandelier humbly admitted to Morgan in a letter, "The amount of ignorance displayed by me already is astonishing, the only good thing is and has been a more or less faithful adherence to your ethnological principles." Bandelier argued, then, that "the social organization and mode of government of the ancient Mexicans was a military democracy, originally based on communism in living." He published articles arguing this theory in three reports of the Peabody Museum: "On the Art of War and Mode-of Warfare of the Ancient Mexicans" in 1877, "On the Distribution and Tenure of Lands, and the Customs with Respect to Inheritance, among the Ancient Mexicans" in 1878, and "On the Social Organization and Mode of Government of the Ancient Mexicans" in 1880.

Through these articles, Bandelier became an acknowledged authority on American archaeology. He wrote archaeological reviews for Nation, and he joined the archaeological expeditions of Morgan and C. C. Rau. In many of his works, Bandelier offered his observations, study, and theories to the public in order to change the image of the American Indian in American culture. He explained in Contributions to the History of the Southwestern Portion of the United States, "We are but on the threshold of American ethnology, and ethnology alone, considered as a 'method of research,' can supply a key to the maze of material which the Spaniards and their missionaries accumulated, or which they enabled the natives to render intelligible to a public accustomed to methods of commemoration highly in advance of any which the American Indian had ever conceived."

Bandelier knew that in order truly to shift the popularly held cultural perception of the American Indian, he must also write non-scholarly texts. Thus, in order to redefine Native American culture for non-scholars, he composed his archaeologically informed novel, The Delight Makers. He explained to his friend, Thomas Janvier, "I consider the novel of much greater importance [than scientific articles] in regard to Mexico even. We have, Mr. Morgan, and I under his directions, unsettled the Romantic School in Science, now the same thing must be [done] in literature on the American aborigine. Prescott's Aztec is a myth, it remains to show that [James] Fenimore Cooper's Indian is a fraud. Understand me: I have nothing personal in view. Cooper has no more sincere admirer than I am, but the cigar-store red man and the statuesque Pocahontas of the 'vuelta abajo' trade as they are paraded in literature and thus pervert the public conceptions about our Indians, THEY—I want to destroy first if possible. Afterwards the time will come for a republication of the scientific tracts."

The Delight Makers was published first in German; in 1890 it was also published in English, translated by Bandelier himself. The novel tells the story of a Pueblo Indian group, in which a mother and son have displeased the koshare, or "Delight Makers," who wield special powers among the tribe. (It is a koshare, for example, who enables the harvest.) When the son, Okoya, falls in love with Mitsha, daughter of a koshare, Okoya and Mitsha have a "Pyramus and Thisbe" type of romance, which, surprisingly, ends happily. The novel was praised not only as literature but also as a valuable fund of information on Pueblo culture. James H. Maguire, in an article for Dictionary of Literary Biography, noted, "Bandelier interweaves a wealth of ethnological information into the narrative.… This fusion of fiction and ethnological data is what Bandelier referred to when he wrote in the preface to the first edition of-clothing sober facts in the garb of romance." Critics praised the novel, but it went out of print quickly due to poor sales. Nevertheless, the novel was reissued in 1916, making much delight for its readers. A reviewer for the Boston Transcript approved: "This book, novel or no novel, is a remarkable one, and should be read by all who are interested in Indian life."

In addition to his fictional efforts, Bandelier continued with his more scientifically oriented writing. In the last years of the nineteenth century he published Final Report of Investigations among the Indians of the Southwestern United States, Carried on Mainly in the Years from 1880 to 1885, as well as The Gilded Man (El Dorado) and Other Pictures of the Spanish Occupancy of America. Just before the publication of the latter volume, Bandelier's wife died; he remarried one year later to the linguist, Fanny Ritter. In 1910, Bandelier published a study of his investigation of Bolivia and Peru, The Islands of Titicaca and Koati which again pleased reviewers. "Bandelier's latest volume maintains the high standard of scholarship which he set for himself in his earlier works," claimed a reviewer for Nation. Indeed, critics approved Bandelier's work throughout his career, though he seldom found commercial success with his writing.

Bandelier also worked to change notions regarding Native American culture by lecturing at the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, and the Hispanic Society of America. He also worked in the Museum of New Mexico and the School of American Archaeology, ensuring that his deep knowledge of American archaeology would have the greatest impact possible. Consequently, Bandelier's intense investigations of American Indian culture did change the way that culture was imagined by both scholarly and popular audiences. Charles H. Lange and Carroll L. Riley remarked, "His study of the American Indian past in a setting of the total environment was reinvented with great fanfare in the 1960s and, with mechanistic philosophical underpinning (which would have been anathema to Bandelier), has come to be known as the New Archaeology." Bandelier not only reimagined the early cultures of the Southwest, but he reimagined archaeological study itself. He died on March 18, 1914.



Ceram, C. W., The First American: A Story of North American Archaeology, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (New York, NY), 1971.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 186: Nineteenth-Century American Western Writers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.


Boston Transcript, December 6, 1916, p. 4.

Journal of American History, December, 1966.

Nation, September 29, 1910.

New York Times, April 23, 1910.*