Cottie Burland

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Cottie Burland, who was born in 1905, died on 18 March while visiting his daughter in Australia. He will be long remembered both by his former colleagues and by many of the students and visitors to the Department of Ethnography of the British Museum. Cottie first joined the Department in 1925 when T.A. Joyce was in charge of the Ethnographical collections. From that time until his retirement in 1965 he held various posts in the Department, but in the latter part of his career had sole responsibility for the running of the Students’ Room. Many will recall with gratitude his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the collections and their history, and many more will have received their first kindly and enthusiastic tutelage in ethnographical studies, whether from him personally or though his books and lectures. He wrote various general introductory books at a time when little such material was available to the general public.

His greatest love, and the field within which he made his most valued contributions, was the study of the pre- Hispanic cultures of Latin America. He was especially interested in and knowledgable concerning the Mixtec codices of Mexico. In the light of the many developments in this field which have taken place in recent years, his approach to their study might seem outmoded, but none can deny that his intuitive response to this material resulted in many interesting insights into the interpretation of the codices. It is pleasing to recall that after his retirement from the British Museum and before declining health made travel more difficult, he was finally able to visit Mexico. There he was greeted as an old friend by people who had met him in London and those who had read his books, and able to see at last some of the archaeological sites and objects to which he had offered a lifetime’s devotion.

Elizabeth Carmichael

This obituary first appeared as: Carmichael, Elizabeth. 1983. ‘Obituary’. RAIN, No. 56, p. 15-16 Reproduced with permission.


To cite this article:

CARMICHAEL, ELIZABETH. 1983. ‘Obituary’. RAIN, No. 56, p. 15-16 (available on-line:


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