George Clapp Vaillant

George Vaillant
George C. Vaillant
Archives, AMNH Anthropology Division.

George Vaillant was born in 1901 in Boston, Massachusetts. While an undergraduate at Harvard University he worked in the field with A.V. Kidder, a pioneer archaeologist of the American Southwest. Vaillant graduated with a PhD from Harvard in 1927 and joined the staff of the American Museum of Natural History as an assistant curator. With the support of the Museum he carried out almost nine years of fieldwork in Mexico between 1928 and 1936.

Vaillant applied techniques learned working with Kidder to his own fieldwork. One goal of his research was to establish the chronology of the Basin of Mexico. In 1928, most archaeologists recognized three major eras-Archaic, Teotihuacán, and Aztec-but the time frame for the development of pre-Hispanic civilization was not well understood. Vaillant began by conducting non-systematic regional survey in order to identify archaeological sites. Then, he began a program to systematically excavate sites from each era.

After 1930 Vaillant was greatly aided in the field by his wife Susannah Beck Vaillant. The Vaillants used modern scientific field methods: they excavated in recognizable units, took field notes, made detailed drawings and photographs, and coded ceramics with a standardized scheme. This conscientious record keeping makes it possible for scholars to use their collections to research current topics.

Vaillant prepared detailed monographs on the sites of Zacatenco, Ticomán, El Arbolillo, and Gualupita and articles and books that provided interpretations of Teotihuacán and Aztec culture. He wrote a popular book entitled The Aztecs of Mexico, which first came out in 1941 and was revised by Susannah in 1950 (George died in 1945). While more recent scholarship has allowed researchers to refine some of the Vaillants' interpretations, their work helped establish the cultural sequence for Central Mexico.

1941-1944 Museum Director, University of Pennsylvania
1928-1936 Fieldwork in Mexico, D.F.: Zacatenco, Ticomán, El Arbolillo, San Juan Teotihuacán, Gualupita (Cuernavaca), San Fransisco Mazapan, Santiago Ahiutzotla, Chiconautla, Nonoalco, and "Los Melones" (Texcoco)
1927 Assistant Curator, AMNH
1927 Ph.D., Harvard University
1925 MA, Harvard University
1922 BA, Harvard University