Alfonso Caso y Andrade (February 1, 1896 in Mexico City – November 30, 1970 in Mexico City) was an archaeologist who made important contributions to pre-Columbian studies in his native Mexico.
Caso believed that the systematic study of ancient Mexican civilizations was an important way to understand Mexican cultural roots.As a university student, he was part of a group of young intellectuals known as Los Siete Sabios de México ("The Seven Sages of Mexico") who founded Mexico City's "Society for Conferences and Concerts", which promoted cultural activity among the student population.
One of the other Sages was Vicente Lombardo Toledano, who became Caso's brother-in-law after he married Lombardo's sister, writer María Lombardo: the couple had four children.
After her death in 1966, he married her sister Aida.Caso completed a law degree in 1919, following which he immediately started teaching at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and obtaining a second degree in philosophy in 1920.
He subsequently became interested in archaeology in his late twenties after a visit to Xochicalco.
In his work, he sought to explain the development of Mesoamerican civilisations in terms of continuity and internal evolution, rejecting earlier theories about cultural change being the result of trans-cultural diffusion.
His approach was interdisciplinary, drawing on linguistics, ethnography, history and demography.His notable discoveries include the excavations at Monte Albán, in particular "Tomb Seven",in which several gold pieces and offerings were found (now shown in the Regional Museum of Oaxaca).
He also discovered many sites in the Mixteca (a region in the state of Oaxaca), such as Yucuita, Yucuñudahui and Monte Negro.
As well as discovering new sites Caso also sought to interpret them, establishing the chronology of Monte Albán history, and deciphering Mixtec codices.
Throughout his life Caso wrote books about native Mesoamerican cultures, including those of the Olmec, Mixtec, Zapotec, and Aztec.
He was one of the first to recognize the Olmecs as the earliest Mesoamerican civilization, declaring that they were the "cultura madre" (Mother culture) of Mesoamerica.
His argument has subsequently been debated by Mesoamerican archaeologists; it is currently unclear how the Olmec interacted with other Mesoamerican cultures.
His writing on the Zapotecs, based on his work at Monte Albán, proposed that they established hegemony over neighbouring peoples - a theory which was widely criticised at the time, but which was validated by the studies of others after Caso's death.He was the younger brother of philosopher Antonio Caso Andrade.