Anne MacKaye Chapman was born in 1922 in Los Angeles, California. She left for Mexico in 1940, enrolling at the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (ENAH) in Mexico City. At the ENAH, Chapman studied with Paul Kirchhoff, Wigberto Jiménez Moreno, and Miguel Covarrubias. Inspired by the work of Covarrubias, Chapman and her colleagues published Anthropos, a journal combining art with articles on anthropology and politics. Only two editions were ever published, both in 1947, due to limited resources. Chapman conducted her first ethnographic fieldwork as a student among Mayan communities in Chiapas, Mexico --first, among the Tzeltales under Sol Tax, and later among the Tzoziles under Alfonso Villa Rojas. She eventually earned her Master's degree in Anthropology in 1951 from the ENAH; her Master's thesis, entitled La Guerra de los Aztecas contra los Tepanecas, used Clausewitz's theories on war to analyze the defeat of the Tepanecas by the Aztecs to gain their independence in the early 15th century.
Chapman returned to the U.S. in the 1950s, earning her PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University in New York City in 1958. Her dissertation was entitled An Historical Analysis of the Tropical Forest Tribes on the Southern Border of Mesoamerica. While at Columbia, she studied with Conrad Arensberg and worked as an assistant to Karl Polanyi from 1953-55. Another professor, William Duncan Strong, introduced her to the Tolupan (Jicaque) of Honduras. After being awarded funds by the Fulbright Foundation and the Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM), Chapman began her fieldwork in 1955 among the Tolupan in Montaña de la Flor, Honduras. She would return for a period of several months every year through 1960 for her research, but maintained her relationship with the community for the rest of her life. During her fieldwork, Chapman primarily worked with Alfonso Martinez. Through him, Chapman was able to make a study of Tolupan oral tradition and social organization, as well as to elaborate detailed genealogies of the community. Her research eventually resulted in a book, Les Enfants de la Mort: Univers Mythique des Indiens Tolupan (Jicaque), published in 1978; a revised English text was published in 1992 under the title Master of Animals: Oral tradition of the Tolupan Indians, Honduras. Alfonso Martinez died of measles in 1969.
Chapman also conducted ethnographic research among the Lenca of Honduras, starting in 1965-66, and continuing through the 1980s. Her work followed up on analysis by Kirchhoff on "cultural areas," particularly Mesoamerica. She sought to address a doubt raised by Kirchhoff about whether the Lenca should be considered a Mesoamerican group, ultimately resolving the question in the affirmative in an article entitled "Los Lencas de Honduras en el siglo XVI," published in 1978. In addition, in 1985-86 she published a two-volume study of Lenca rituals and tradition titled Los Hijos del Copal y la Candela.
In 1964, Chapman was invited to join the team of archaeologist Annette Laming-Emperaire on a project in Tierra del Fuego. Although not an archaeologist by training, Chapman accepted for the opportunity to meet Lola Kiepja, one of the last few living Selk'nam (Ona) of Tierra del Fuego. After finishing the archaeology project, Chapman met with Lola and recorded her speaking and singing in Selk'nam, as well as her memories of life as a Selk'nam. Although Lola passed away in 1966, Chapman was able to continue working with the remaining Selk'nam in Tierra del Fuego. In 1976, she co-produced a film about the Selk'nam along with Ana Montes, The Onas: Life and Death in Tierra del Fuego. In 1985, she expanded her fieldwork to include the remaining Yahgans in Tierra del Fuego, Chile.
In 1961, Chapman became a member of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, working under Claude Lévi-Strauss until 1969, and eventually retiring from the center in 1987. During her long career as an ethnographer, she was associated with various other research centers in Europe and the Americas, including: the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, France; the Research Institute for the Study of Man in New York City; the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Towards the end of her life, Chapman resided primarily in Buenos Aires, working and writing there. Chapman passed away at age 88 on June 12, 2010 in a Paris hospital.
Chapman, Anne MacKaye. [Accession File]. National Anthropological Archive, Smithsonian Institution
Nash, June. 2010. In Memoriam: Anne MacKaye Chapman. Anthropology News 51(7): 41.
Born in Los Angeles, California
journal with other students in Mexico City
Earns Master’s degree from the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia (ENAH) in Mexico City
Works as an assistant for Karl Polanyi at Columbia University
Begins Tolupan (Jicaque) fieldwork in Montaña de la Flor, Honduras
Earns PhD from Columbia University
Member of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France Associate of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, France
Begins works with the Selk’nam (Ona) of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Begins fieldwork with the Lenca in Intibuca, Honduras
Receives Doctorate from the University of Paris, Sorbonne
Fellow, Research Institute for the Study of Man in New York City
Associate, Instituto Hondureño de Antropología in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Receives Doctorate from the University of Paris, René-Déscartes
Begins fieldwork among the remaining Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego, Chile
Associate, Instituto Nacional de Antropología in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Retires from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Passes away on June 12 at the age of 88