Desire Charnay

Birth: 1828


Claude-Joseph Desire Charnay (2 May 1828 – 24 October 1915) was a French traveller and archaeologist. He was born in Fleurie (Rhone) on the 2nd of May 1828. He studied at the Lycee Charlemagne, in 1850 became a teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana, and there became acquainted with John Lloyd Stephens's books of travel in Yucatan. He travelled in Mexico, under a commission from the French ministry of education, in 1857-1861; in Madagascar in 1863; in South America, particularly Chile and Argentina, in 1875; and in Java and Australia in 1878.

In 1880-1883 he again visited the ruined cities of Mexico. Pierre Lorillard of New York contributed to defray the expense of this expedition, and Charnay named a great ruined city near the Guatemalan boundary line Ville Lorillard in his honour. Charnay went to Yucatan in 1886.

The more important of his publications are Le Mexique, souvenirs et impressions de voyage (1863), being his personal report on the expedition of 1857-61, of which the official report is to be found in Viollet-le-Duc's Cites et ruines americaines: Mitla, Palenque, Izamal, Chichen-Itza, Uxmal (1863), vol. 19 of Recueil des voyages et des documents; Les Anciennes Villes du Nouveau Monde (1885; English translation, The Ancient Cities of the New World, 1887, by Mmes. Gonino and Conant); a romance, Une Princesse indienne avant la conquete (1888); a travers les forets vierges (1890); and Manuscrit Ramirez: Histoire de I'origine des Indiens qui habitent la Nouvelle Espagne selon leurs traditions (1903). He translated Cortez's letters into French, under the title Lettres de Fernand Cortes a Charles-quint sur la decouverte et la conquete du Mexique (1896).

He elaborated a theory of Toltec migrations and considered the prehistoric Mexican to be of Asiatic origin, because of observed similarities to Japanese architecture, Chinese decoration, Malaysian language and Cambodian dress, etc.


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5. pg. 947.

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