Alphonse Louis Pinart (February 26, 1852, Bouquinghem, Marquise (Pas-de-Calais) - February 13, 1911, Boulogne-Billancourt) was a French scholar, linguist, ethnologist and collector, specialist on the American continent. He studied the civilizations of the New World in the manner of the pioneers of the time, mixing the empirical observation of anthropological, ethnological and linguistic elements.

Alphonse Pinart
DiedFebruary 13, 1911
Spouse(s)Zelia Nuttall

The son of a wealthy forge master, a learned young man who had learned English, Russian and some Asian linguistics with Stanislas Julien, he was fascinated by the age of 15 for the question of the origin of the Amerindians and Inuit. He spent the fortune of his family and his two wives in the exploration of America and the purchase of objects and books related to his interests, which he made enjoy many museums and collections, starting with the Ethnographic Museum of Trocadero which he was the first donor, and the castle museum Boulogne-sur-Mer in his native region.


The meeting of the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg at the 1867 World Fair in Paris decided his vocation. He conceived the project of going to Alaska to study the native languages in order to prove the Siberian origin of the Amerindians; At the time, this idea had few supporters. He may also have been interested in archeology by the discovery in 1864 in Équihen, by workers of the family business, human skeletons and antique objects2. Another likely influence is anthropologist Ernest Hamy, a 10-year-old fellow, with whom he will remain linked. The latter, first curator of the Ethnographic Museum of Trocadero and director of scientific missions from 1880 will later appeal to him. First stays in Alaska

At 19, he realizes his project of travel at his expense; he resided from spring 1871 to spring 1872 in Alaska, a region that has just been acquired by the United States after nearly a century of Russian occupation, and made a visit to the Aleutian Islands. He returns to France sixty masks from the Kodiak archipelago and eight others discovered in a burial cave Akhanh on the island of Unga (Aleutian Islands). According to S. Chauvet3, his youth and energy allow him to perform sports such as the solitary kayak trip from Unalaska to Kodiak, which facilitates the search for objects and impresses the locals.

Between 1873 and 1874, he traveled to Russia, St. Petersburg and Moscow, but also to Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Tartu to copy additional documentation on the peoples of the Bering Strait, partly for himself, in commissioned part of the American historian George Bancroft (1832-1918). He is one of the many assistants Bancroft relies on for writing his History of America. Pinart will collect a collection of documents and manuscripts and bequeath to him personal documents4.

Shortly after his return to France, he left for America. In 1875 and 1876 he visited Maine, Nova Scotia, Oregon, British Columbia, Washington State and Arizona.

In the meantime, he acquired in 1875 from the antique dealer Eugene Boban a large collection of Mesoamerican coins. He knows his first financial problems because, besides the expenses of the expedition of 1871-1872, he bought a good part of the library of Brasseur de Bourbourg. In 1879, Eugene Boban complains of not having received all of his due and the funds are missing to continue his explorations. Alphonse Pinart then negotiated with the Ministry of Education the financing of his expedition (granted April 2, 1878) jointly with Leon de Cessac, against the donation of his collection to the Museum of Ethnography Trocadero.

He received in 1874 for his trip to Alaska and the Strait of Bering the Gold Medal for study tour, missions and reconnaissance works of the Geographical Society, and in 1875, a medal of the International Geographical Union at of the Paris Congress. He will receive another in 1877 from the Acclimatization Society.

In 1877 he went to Antill


  • Caverne d'Aknañh, île d'Ounga(archipel Shumagin, Alaska). Paris, E. Leroux 1875
  • Voyage à l'Ile de Pâques (Océan Pacifique) (Voyage to Easter Island) (in French; see External Link below for English translation)[1]
  • Pinart, Alphonse (1890). Vocabulario castellano-cuna. Paris: E. Leroux.


  1. ^ Pinart, Alphonse (1877). VOYAGE A L'ILE DE PAQUES (OCÉAN PACIFIQUE) (on-line book text) (in French). Retrieved 2008-12-16.

External linksEdit