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The Ethnographic Collections

Access to Collections and the Museum Library

View a selection of objects and images from the Ethnographic Collections.

Inuit (Alaska, Canada, and Greenland): This important collection consists of Arctic clothing, eider blankets and bead collars from Greenland, and sculpture from Canada and Alaska.

Inuit (the Brower Collection): There are 534 objects in this collection made by Charles D. Brower from Pt. Barrow, Alaska, with a smaller number from St. Lawrence Island. The collection consists of archaeological and ethnographic materials of ivory, bone, stone, and wood. An example of the collector’s thoroughness: in order to have a traditional set of spears, he had the last Inuit left in Pt. Barrow who knew how to make spears in the original style carve a set from driftwood. Then, as in earlier times, driftwood was the only wood available. He made the traditional eight spears and the throwing stick, which were the full complement of weapons needed for hunting in the kayak. The hunter kept four spears on each side, with a sufficient variety for any game—from birds to seals. This collection has been showcased in Inuit: People of the Midnight Sun (2003-2005).

Aleut Collection: There are excellent examples of basketry and a full-size kayak.

Interior Athabascan: This collection of clothing includes jackets and moccasins, carrying bags and baskets.

Northwest Coast Collection: These rare and outstanding objects include two chilcat blankets, a Tlingit shaman’s rattle, slate carvings, wooden masks and carvings, baskets, corn husk bags, and beadwork.

California (Excluding Southern California): This large selection of basketry from the Klamath/Modoc, Yokuts, Panamint, Chemehuevi, and Pomo (especially feathered and miniature baskets) is supplemented with Hupa skirts and very rare Miwok bows and arrows.

Southern California Ethnographic Collections: These objects of basketry, ceramics, stone, wood, and shell make up one of the major collections from this area of the country. The basket collection alone is large, and many specimens are fully documented. [There are also prehistoric baskets from dry caves.] The Museum conserves a number of rare items, including a rabbitskin robe, woven bags, eagle and condor feather dance skirts, and a significant number of ancient perishable objects recovered from dry caves. Many items from Southern California and Mexico were collected by Melicent and Leslie Lee.

Carl Harkleroad amassed a large Native American collection. He donated a large portion of that collection to the Museum before his death, and the remainder was purchased through the support of the Collectors Club and other donors.

The Mojave Collection: This collection was made by John Peabody Harrington in 1913. It consists of a broad range of artifacts with good documentation.

The Anasazi Collection: The 1,900 pieces are from the Four Corners region and were acquired by Dr. Edgar L. Hewett for the 1915 Exposition. Old catalog cards have misidentified each piece as “Puerco-Chaco,” so a ceramics specialist is needed to identify the many types of pottery represented. The collection was larger in the beginning, as early letters state that many pieces were traded to other museums by Hewett. The present assemblage has been completely photographed and entered into a database at the Chaco Research Center, National Park Service.

Dr. Hewett acquired the “Rio Puerco” collection from R. A. Bennett, who owned a trading post at Houck, Arizona. Bennett collected prehistoric artifacts without regard to context or documentation, as was common at that time, and with the purpose of selling them. There is no record of what Hewett paid for the collection or the original number of pieces.

Prehistoric Southwest Ceramics: These include the Mogollon, Salado, Little Colorado River, Kayenta/Tsegi, Jeddito, Hohokam, Mimbres, Casas Grandes, and Pajarito Plateau. The collection was showcased in the exhibition Heritage in Clay and published in a catalog by the same name.

Historic Pueblo Ceramics: The more than 600 pieces include ceramics from Santa Clara, San Ildefonso (including the famous Maria Martinez), Hopi (including the Nampeyo family), Santa Clara, Taos/Picuris, San Juan, Nambe, Santo Domingo, Nambe/Pojoaque, Acoma, Cochiti, Tesuque, Santa Ana, Laguna, Zia, Isleta, and Jemez. There are also examples of Navajo and Zuni ceramics.

In preparation for the 1915 Exposition, Dr. Hewett commissioned Wesley Bradfield to collect pottery and other objects from the New Mexico Pueblos, mainly from the Keresan Pueblos south and west of Santa Fe. He also engaged Thomas Dozier--a dealer, collector, and school teacher married to a Santa Clara Pueblo woman--to collect among the Tewa and Tiwa speakers to the north of Santa Fe.

Greater Southwest Ceramics: There are more than 200 examples of Akimel (Pima), Tohono O’odham (Papago), Maricopa, Kiliwa, Mojave, Paipai, and other desert wares.

Southwest Jewelry Collection: Many of the approximately one thousand pieces are old, though some are not. In 1988, Dr. Ida Rigby established the Edith Hausler Rigby Fund for the purpose of documenting the art and innovation of contemporary Southwest jewelers. Currently, there are 76 pieces which have been donated through the Rigby Fund. This collection continues to grow.

Hopi Katsinas: The three hundred or so katsinas include a small group of pre-1920 carvings, important examples from 1920 to 1960, and the Lovett Collection of 90 action katsinas from the 1970s.

Zuni Katsinas: These include a complete shalako set of about a dozen figures.

The Southwest Textile Collection: The collection consists mainly of such Navajo weavings as Nazlini, Crystal, Wide Ruins, Chinle, Two Gray Hill, Manuelito, and Coal Mine Mesa. Types of weavings include two-faced, diamond twill, and raised outline technique. There are handwoven dresses from the Hopi, Zuni, and Isleta people, as well as complete Hopi wedding costumes and textiles for special dances. These textiles have been used in many exhibitions: Navajo Weaving (1973), Adaptive Americans (1975-76), Tension and Harmony: the Art of Weaving (1982-83), Hopi, the Peaceful People (1969-93), Southwest Weaving: a Continuum (1996-97, funded by the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Fund).

An important collector in this area was H. K. Raymenton. He was an avid supporter of the Museum and active Board member during the 1940s and 1950s. He was, in fact, President of the Board in 1940-41 and 1950-53 and wrote a history of the Museum, Forty-Seven Years. He contributed many objects and photographs to the collections, including the famous “Railroad Rug” described in George Wharton James’s book Indian Blankets and Their Makers (1914).

Plains Indians Collection: The approximately 1,500 pieces include clothing, beadwork, painted hides, pictographic painting on cloth, utensils, pipes, and weapons. The collection was used in Bead It! (1985-86) and The Bead Goes On! (1995-96, funded by the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Fund).

An interesting part of the collection belonged to Chief Joseph Washakie, an Eastern Shoshone, who cooperated with the U.S. government against the Sioux and Cheyenne. He granted the Union Pacific Railroad the right-of-way through Shoshone lands in western Wyoming, aiding in the completion of the coast-to-coast railroad. He was instrumental in his tribe signing the Fort Bridger Treaty in 1868, which established the Wind River Reservation. This treaty placed his group on a reservation, but also gave the tribe a doctor, teacher, blacksmith, and missionary. When he died in 1900, he was given a full military burial, the only one ever given to an American Indian chief. During his long life (of over 100 years), he was treated by a doctor who became his friend. The doctor was given many items, including a large teepee liner, painted hides, a sundance figurine, and other rare objects. This collection was donated to the Museum.

Eastern Woodlands: The Museum has a collection of basketry, an early birch bark canoe, and a sampling of archaeological materials, including celts, early copper implements, and a variety of ground stone objects.

Seri Collection including Ironwood Carvings: The Seri collection is growing. In the 1960s, anthropologists Ralph Michelsen and Roger Owen collected 157 Seri ethnographic items. Another important and well-documented collection made by anthropologist Scott Ryerson includes 290 artifacts, numerous slides, photographs, and nearly 100 letters written by Edward Davis in the 1930s. Davis was an agent for the Heye Foundation in New York and acquired materials on their behalf. His correspondence is included with this collection.

Prehistoric Mexican Ceramics: There are examples from the Maya areas, Colima, the border between Colima and Jalisco, Jalisco, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Michoacan, Guanajuato, Puebla, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Tampico, the Huastec area, West Mexico, Central Mexico, and Eastern Mexico.

The Maya: The Museum is famed for its collection of full-scale casts of Maya stone monuments from Quiriguá. These replicas of four stelae and two large zoomorphs were made for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition by Edgar L. Hewett.  The inscriptions have been of great research value to scholars deciphering the Maya hieroglyphs because they are in better condition than the weathering originals. Also, the 1915 Exposition displayed six large murals of Maya cities by Carlos Vierra. An important carved lintel that was part of a throne-like seat was donated by Joseph Haber. 

Prehistoric Mexican Ceramics (the Haber Collection): Joseph Haber donated this collection--188 figurine heads and fragments, mainly from Palenque, with others from Kaminalyuyu, Guatemala, and Junuta, Tabasco--in memory of his wife, Jeanne P. Haber.

Historic and Contemporary Mexican Ceramics: These are examples from Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua (Tarahumara and Warahio), Sinaloa, and Nayarit.

The Mata Ortiz Collection: This important group consists of 340 pieces from the Spencer MacCullum purchase, with an additional 45 pieces donated by the Collectors Club, the Huttas Gift, and others. The MacCullum collection documents the beginning stages, the development, and the progression of the art form by its protagonist, Juan Quezada. It is a collection that will continue to grow as innovative and creative examples are available, not only by Juan Quezada, but by members of his family and people of the village of Mata Ortiz. The collection was showcased in the Main Gallery exhibition The Magic of Mata Ortiz (2000-2001).

As a young boy growing up in northwest Chihuahua, Juan Quezada loved to draw. He covered the walls of his family’s house with drawings, cleaned them off, and then drew again. As he grew older, he explored the areas around his village and found ruins and potsherds of the ancient Casas Grandes people. He carefully and critically studied the potsherds, and through much experimentation he learned the techniques of the clay selection, coiling, painting, and firing of the ancient ceramics. His first three pieces found their way to Bob’s Swap Shop, an “antique” store in Deming, New Mexico. The owner of the store offered them for sale as “ancient” Casas Grandes pots after having scratched out Juan Quezada’s name from the bottom. Enter Spencer MacCallum. He recognized the special creativity of the pieces and was able to trace their maker to the village of Mata Ortiz. There, MacCallum made an arrangement with the artist to sell him all of his pieces for a certain number of years. He assembled a large collection, not only purchasing Juan Quezada’s ceramics, but those of his family and some of the villagers as they learned the techniques. In the 1990s, Dr. Richard O’Connor learned of the collection and that it was available for purchase for $50,000. He was instrumental in raising this amount and brought the collection and its archival materials to the Museum. Our holdings include the "first three pots”!

Mexican Folk Art: There are approximately five thousand pieces in this collection. Over five hundred of the pieces were donated by the Mexican government in 1952. Recently, William Robinson donated nearly 500 pieces and Ron Slaughter over 200. The collection includes the unique alebrijes created by Pedro Linares and his family, ornate trees of life, ceramics, masks, carvings, and beaded work. It has been featured in the Main Gallery in Hecho en Mexico (2002-2003) and has traveled to the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley.

Huichol Collection: The approximately 300 pieces of this collection include clothing, yarn paintings, beaded gourd bowls, ritual items, and utensils. It was featured in the exhibition Mirrors of the Gods (1986-87, funded by NEH). Much of the collection was acquired by Susana Valadez, who was married to a Huichol.

Mexican Costumes: The Mexican textile collection contains items from many ethnic groups in Mexico, including the Nahua and Otomi, Huichol, Tarascan, Mayo, Yaqui, Tarahumara, Tepehuan, and the Maya of Chiapas and Yucatan. Many of these costumes are complete and show special dance outfits, serapes, and daily life clothing. Many were collected in the field and have good documentation. The Mexican costumes have been featured in many exhibitions: Viva Mexico (1965-66), Year of the Days, (1973-74), Vestidos: Costumes of Indian Mexico (1977-79, funded by NEA), Mirrors of the Gods [Huichol culture] (1986-87 funded by NEH), Oaxacan Indian Clothing: 1492-1992 (1992, funded by NEA).

Oaxacan Costumes: Approximately 1,300 pieces were collected from 15 linguistic groups in over 150 Oaxacan villages and fully documented in the field.

Our important Oaxacan collection came to the Museum through the diligence of Anita Jones, who for four decades recorded the traditional weavings of this, her adopted state. Born in Tampico, Mexico and educated in Holland, she returned to Tampico and became a Mexican citizen, living in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, and Torreon, before settling in Oaxaca. She began collecting, documenting, and photographing the native costumes near her home and gradually expanded her travels to remote villages on foot, in a jeep, or by mule, horse, or donkey. Her work is the basis of our Oaxacan collection.

Central American Prehispanic Ceramics: Here are examples from the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Historic and Contemporary Central American Ceramics: Here are examples from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

Guatemalan Textiles: The Museum has been systematically collecting Guatemalan textiles to document this rich cultural tradition before hand-weaving disappears from that country. The Museum holds 980 textiles from 110 different villages representing 13 linguistic groups. This includes complete costumes as well as items worn for ritual use. Complementing the collection are 213 ethnographic items from 42 villages. The collection has been shown in numerous exhibitions.

Chocó (Panama) Collection: Over 200 documented items of material culture were collected in the 1950s.

In 1952, William and Evelyn Phillips sailed their yacht, The Blue Peter, from San Diego to Panama to study the lifeways of the Chocó Indians living along the Rio Chico. Traveling up the river by dugout canoe, the couple visited several Chocó villages, where they photographed lifeways and recorded oral histories of the people. They also assembled a remarkable collection of ritual and secular artifacts. They repeated their trip in 1955. The exhibit Chocó showcased material culture from both trips.

Kuna (Panama) Collection: Of the nearly 100 items, many of them are molas featured in an exhibit in the 1970s called The Orange Crush Mola and Other Delights.

Prehistoric South American Ceramics: There are examples from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru (the cultures of Chavin, Vicus, Moche, Nazca, Chancay, Lambayeque, Huari, Chimu, Chimu/Inca, Inca, and Ica).

Peruvian Ceramics: This fine collection includes 179 pieces from the Gildred Collection, assembled by the Honorable Theodore Gildred, once the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. While living in Peru in the 1930s, he purchased pieces of Moche, Chimu, and Nazca ceramics from Lima shops. In 1981, Gildred donated his collection to the Museum.

Historic and Contemporary South American Ceramics: Examples include Colonial Chimu, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Brazil.

Peruvian Textiles: These pieces number about two hundred.

Ecuadorian Collection, Central Andes (Cacha): Former Curator Grace Johnson and former Director Douglas Sharon collected 145 items.

Colombian Collection: George Skinner collected 196 ethnographic items in the 1960s.

Bolivian Collection: Jean Meadowcroft donated 218 items from the 1960s. Slides document her collection.

Peruvian Ethnography, Including Retablos: Tom and Adelle Davies donated 258 items, including 30 retablos. Many of these are by Nicario Jimenez, a famous retablo maker. Douglas Sharon collected ethnographic items in Peru from 1989 to 2003.

Mapuche Collection: There are more than a hundred objects from the Mapuche in Chile, collected in the 1960s by Gage Skinner and in 1996 by Grace Johnson, Museum Curator.

The Basket Collections: There are approximately 3,500 baskets in the collection. Of this total, California and the Greater Southwest are represented by approximately 1,500 items (450 are documented baskets from the Kumeyaay and their neighbors). The Southwest collections include Apache, Akimel (Pima), Tohono O’odham (Papago), Hopi, and Navajo. Other areas include Northwest Coast, Inuit, Aleut, Mexico, Baja California, Panama, and Colombia. Baskets from our collections have been featured in Souvenirs to Science (1987-88) and Fibers and Forms (1997-98, funded by the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Fund).

Important collectors in this area are listed below:

Abbie Boutelle lived on A Street near Balboa Park. From 1897 to 1921 she traveled throughout the San Diego back country, making contacts with Indian basket makers and purchasing baskets from stores and local residents. She kept notebooks documenting the baskets and made a photo album of Indian life in San Diego County at the turn of the century. Her large collection of baskets is one of the best resources for the study of Indian basketry in Southern California. In 1928, the Museum received her collection through her bequest.

Frank and Kate Stephens were intensely interested in the Native Americans in the areas where they collected bird and mammal specimens for the San Diego Natural History Museum. In 1917, when the Natural History Museum moved to Balboa Park, Frank Stephens was its Director and his wife Kate was Curator of Collections. The material culture they collected had actually been used by the people who made it, rather than made as “for sale” items. The collection contains important baskets from San Diego County and Arizona.

 

Lucia and Walter Cannon owned a food and dry goods store in Campo from 1932 to 1942. During this decade of the Depression, they traded food, utensils, and equipment to the nearby Campo Indian Reservation for baskets and pottery. Not only as support, but as encouragement for the Kumeyaay to continue their arts, the Cannons assembled a large collection. Even after they sold the store, they preserved the ethnographic materials intact, never selling pieces to make a profit. In 1984, their son and daughter donated the collection to the Museum, where it ranks as one of our most important resources of Kumeyaay traditional culture.

The Jessop Weapons Collection: This collection has nearly 6,000 weapons, many related to archery from worldwide cultures. The collection ranges from stone arrow points to elaborate crossbows. It includes objects from six continents and numerous islands, and it covers 235 cultures from 60 countries. The collection, first on loan to the Museum, was exhibited in the early 1920s in the Jessop Archery Hall. After WWII it was re-installed in the Jessop Weapons Hall on the second floor, East Gallery (now the Egyptian Gallery). In the 1970s, portions were displayed in Man the Hunter (1978-92) and dedicated to Jessop. In 1974, the Jessop family donated the collection to the Museum. Approximately 200 items were recently showcased in a comprehensive exhibition, Weapons of the World: Art, Technology, and Symbolism (2004-05).

The weapons were collected between 1881 and 1911 by Joseph Jessop, Sr., who engaged ship captains, sailors, shipping companies, travelers, and expeditions to bring back examples of weapons from remote islands and the far reaches of the globe to his home in Coronado. Beginning in 1917, Mr. Jessop made contact with Dr. Edgar L. Hewett about loaning his collection to the new museum. His letters reveal his enthusiasm for making his collection available to the public. He wrote: “When the first mention was made of an Exposition for San Diego, I determined there and then that San Diego Exposition should have the finest show on earth, of at least one thing, and that should be my hobby, archery weapons” (February 9, 1917).

The Egyptian Collections: There are three main collections of Egyptian materials: the Scripps Collection from the Egypt Exploration Society (450 objects), the funerary artifacts donated by Dr. Geoffrey Smith (approximately 400 objects), and the seven coffins donated by Mr. and Mrs. Martin Paul:

The Scripps / Egypt Exploration Society Collection came from the excavations in the 1920s and 1930s by the Egypt Exploration Society of Great Britain. Miss Ellen Browning Scripps of San Diego made generous contributions to the Society and became its Honorary Secretary for the State of California. Because of her support, she was allowed to name the Museum as the recipient of objects from the excavations after the Cairo Museum had made its selection. Although a few other museums were named as beneficiaries, we are exceedingly fortunate to have received documented Amarna artifacts. The Museum received objects from 1921 to 1939. An Egyptian Hall displayed the objects during the 1920s and 1930s. They were packed and stored during WWII. In the 1950s, they were exhibited in what is now the workshop in an exhibit called The Egyptian Tomb (1950s). A robbery of some of the artifacts, mainly jewelry, forced its closure, and the artifacts were placed in storage.

The Scripps Collection is extremely valuable because the artifacts are documented from controlled excavations. It is also from Amarna, a site that was only occupied for about 25 years by Akhenaten and Nefertiti before it was abandoned. The materials from this collection would be impossible to acquire again. It consists of jewelry, ceramics, carved stonework, utensils, tomb figurines (ushabtis), wooden objects, glass, and monument fragments with hieroglyphs. The objects give a view of everyday life in the 18th dynasty (1352 to 1336 B.C.). Also included are objects from Abydos, the cult center of Osiris. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, borrowed 17 objects from the Scripps Collection in 1999-2001 for the exhibition Pharaohs of the Sun. This exhibition traveled to The Netherlands, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The Museum of Fine Arts insured our objects for $688,000.

In 1991, Dr. Geoffrey Smith donated his collection of funerary objects, mainly from the Late Period and the Ptolemaic Period, such as coffin masks, mummy masks, ushabtis, mummy beads, bronze figurines, and a canopic jar. This sparked public interest in Egypt, and the Museum responded with an exhibition featuring objects from the Scripps and Smith collections. The Egyptian holdings have continued to grow with the donation by Mr. and Mrs. Martin Paul of their seven painted mummy cases and with the purchase of a carved limestone canopic jar by The Collectors Club.

Photographic Archives: These are approximately 50,000 images, mostly Native American, with many examples of other cultures worldwide.

Edward Sheriff Curtis: The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis is one of the most significant representations of traditional American Indian culture ever produced. It was issued in a limited edition from 1907 to 1930. Curtis sold subscriptions for 227 sets. A set consists of twenty volumes which contain over 1,500 illustrations, along with over 700 portfolio plates. In 1907, he sold the sets for about $3,000 each. By 1924, the price had risen to $4,200. Today, each of the original sets is worth over a million dollars. The Museum of Man has a complete set.

Melicent and Leslie Lee: Two albums of photographs by the Lees were shot in the tradition of field photography that developed during the Civil War.

Adam Clark Vroman: Vroman left Illinois at the age of 16 and worked at railroad jobs for 17 years. He moved west in an attempt to save his wife, who had tuberculosis. After her death, he operated a bookstore in Pasadena for the rest of his life. Using Pasadena as a base, he traveled throughout the Southwest with his camera, making friends with Indians rather than exploiting them. He also visited the Hispanic people of the Southwest, where he was also respected. He was an excellent documentary photographer, and in 1897 he was selected as the official photographer for the U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology. The project was to climb Katzimo, the Enchanted Mesa of the Acoma tribe, to determine the truth of the ancient legend that the Pueblo was originally situated on the top of the mesa. Vroman hauled over 50 pounds of camera equipment to the top and recorded the truth of the legend.

Constance Goddard Dubois was born in Ohio in 1869. As a young woman she wrote historical fiction and became interested in the plight of the American Indian, especially the Mission Indians of Southern California. She became an activist for reform in the government’s treatment of the American Indians and as a result took on personal fieldwork to determine the conditions on Southern California reservations, especially documenting conditions of the Luiseño and Kumeyaay. She became a member of the American Anthropological Association and the American Folk-Lore Society, and she undertook fieldwork for the American Museum of Natural History and Alfred L. Kroeber at the University of California, Berkeley. Her personal photograph albums, documenting the years 1897 to 1907, were donated to the Museum by Dr. Goddard DuBois in 1968. These albums contain priceless information about the people and their living conditions on San Diego County reservations a century ago.

H. K. Raymenton traveled throughout the world for his journalistic work. He visited Bali, Fiji, the Philippines, Samoa, Tonga, Torres Straits, Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Java, Korea, Malaya, Ceylon, Sumatra, Thailand, Tibet, Viet Nam, Siam, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Greece, Azores, Gibraltar, Italy, Malta, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, Lapland, Finland, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Orkney Island, Scotland, Panama, Martinique Islands, Jamaica, West Indies, Cuba, the United States, Canada, and Hawaii. His numerous photograph / postal card albums document views of life around the globe in the early 1900s.

Jesse H. Bratley was a U.S. Indian Service school teacher and superintendent sent to the Canyon of the Blue Waters of the Havasupai in 1900. With his wife, he applied White-style teaching, clothing, and culture for two years. His photographs are insightful in their portrayal of people in the grip of change. In later years, long out of the Indian Service, Mr. Bratley lectured about his experiences using his photographs as props. His entire collection of photographs and material culture was sold to an unknown buyer. Fortunately, two of his albums came anonymously to the Museum.

The Archaeological Collections

Malcolm J. Rogers was the pioneer archaeologist for the Museum. He amassed hundreds of thousands of artifacts from thousands of recorded sites and ancient trails in Southern California, Baja California, and the deserts of the far west. The artifacts are only part of the collection--field notebooks, site record forms, photographs, and maps document and annotate the artifacts. The Museum has the largest known collection of whole ceramic vessels, supplemented by an extensive ceramic sherd collection from archaeological sites. This includes the type collection of Southern California ceramics (both sherds and whole vessels) assembled by Rogers.

In 1919, Rogers, a mining engineer, discovered an array of stone artifacts near his home in Escondido. (He was later to call this assemblage the San Dieguito.) Joining the staff of the Museum in 1929, he obtained a Smithsonian grant for the first systematic study of prehistoric cultures along the Southern California coast. In 1930, he mounted an expedition to remote San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of central California. In 1938, he excavated the famous Harris Site on the San Dieguito River near Rancho Santa Fe. (The collection from this site has provided valuable research for local archaeologists.) In 1939, he published his first major synthesis of the prehistory of the Desert West. Assisted by colleagues such as Donal Hord (the sculptor), Homer Dana, and his father Frederick Rogers (who also served as photographer), he worked intensely to fill in the outlines of ancient cultures. He documented subjects as diverse as the giant ground figures of the Colorado River terraces and the prehistoric Mojave Desert turquoise mines worked by Pueblo miners from Nevada. Leaving San Diego during WWII, Rogers finally returned to the Museum in 1958 to complete his life’s work, only to be killed in an automobile accident in 1960. His major report on the 1938 Harris Site excavations and his final manuscript, published as Ancient Hunters of the Far West, appeared posthumously in 1966. Through the years, Rogers served variously as Field Archaeologist, Secretary, Curator, Acting Director, and Director of the Museum. However, it was the role of field archaeologist that he preferred.