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Elizabeth Hill Boone
Professor, Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art of Latin America, Aztecs, Mexican Manuscript Painting

Martha and Donald Robertson Chair in Latin American Art

313 Woldenberg Art Center


PhD, University of Texas at Austin
MA, University of Texas at Austin
BA, Fine Arts, College of William and Mary


Elizabeth Boone (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 1977) is a specialist in the Precolumbian and early colonial art of Latin America, with an emphasis on Mexico. Formerly Director of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, she has taught art history at Tulane since 1995. In 2006-8 she was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Member of the Academia Mexicana de la Historia. Her research interests range from the history of collecting to systems of writing and notation; they are grounded geographically in Aztec Mexico but extend temporally for at least a century after the Spanish invasion.

Her last monograph book is a synthetic analysis of the Mexican divinatory and religious codices (Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate, Texas Press, 2007), which explains the figural vocabulary of the sacred calendar and its prophetic forces, but focuses on the graphic structures that unite the two. The book also reinterprets the great narrative passage in the Codex Borgia as a Mexican cosmogony. This book is conceptualized as a companion to her Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs (Texas Press, 2000; Spanish translation, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2010), which won the Arvey Prize of the Association for Latin American Art. A volume of papers edited with Gary Urton, Their Way of Writing: Scripts, Signs, and Pictographies in Pre-Columbian America (Dumbarton Oaks and Harvard Press, 2011), broadly considers Amerindian systems of writing. Her most recent book, written with Louise Burkhart and Davíd Tavárez, deciphers a pictographic catechism from colonial Mexico as a particularly indigenous expression of devotional knowledge. Her current book project focuses on the pictorial encyclopedias of Aztec culture that were created in the decades the Spanish conquest of Mexico. She is particularly interested in how indigenous pictography adapted under the influence of European script and image-making, and why it retained its agency as a container of truth.

Her overriding interest is in the way knowledge is recorded graphically: how, for example, stories about the past can be told pictorially and how religious and mantic concepts can be expressed solely through images. She is interested also in understanding the circumstances in which visual thinking and pictorial expression prove to be more effective than logo-syllabic scripts.

 Nahua Catholicism, politics, and memory in the Atzaqualco pictorial catechism. Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology.


Boone, Elizabeth Hill. Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill. Relatos en Rojo y negro: historias pictorales de los aztecos y mixtecos. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2010.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill, and Gary Urton. 2011. Their way of writing: scripts, signs, and pictographies in Pre-Columbian America. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill. This new world now revealed: Hernán Cortés and the presentation of Mexico to Europe. Word & Image 27, I (2011): 31-46.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill, Louise M. Burkhart, and David Eduardo Tavárez. Painted words: Nahua Catholicism, politics, and memory in the Atzaqualco pictorial catechism. Dumbarton Oaks, 2017.