Smithsonian Olmec Legacy

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Matthew Stirling and Tres Zapotes Monument G. Tres Zapotes, 1939. stirling_19. Photograph by Richard H. Stewart, National Anthropological Archives

Philip Drucker
1911 - 1982

Portrait of Drucker
heizer_086 (detail) R.F. Heizer Collection,
National Anthropological Archives

Philip Drucker was born in Chicago on January 13, 1911, and grew up in Colorado. He left home to become a ranch hand and cowboy after finishing high school, and studied animal husbandry at Colorado Agricultural College. In 1930 he joined a University of New Mexico field school in archaeology, and decided to change his major and his school. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.A. in anthropology in 1932, and received his Ph.D. in 1936.

Drucker became assistant curator at the U.S. National Museum in 1940, and worked for the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution periodically until 1955. During World War II, he served as a Lieutenant in the Navy, and again from 1948 to 1952, while continuing to write and publish on his three main areas of interest: the Northwest Coast of North America, the Pacific Trust Territory and the Tabasco-Veracruz region of Mexico.

Philip Drucker worked with Matthew Stirling at the sites of Tres Zapotes, Cerro de las Mesas, La Venta and San Lorenzo in 1940, 1941 and 1942, and again in 1946. His 1943 publications on ceramic analysis at Tres Zapotes and Cerro de las Mesas have provided an important foundation for Gulf Coast chronological sequences. Drucker returned to La Venta in 1955 with Robert Heizer, Robert Squier and Eduardo Contreras.

Following the 1955 La Venta fieldwork, Drucker returned to Veracruz, and bought a ranch to raise cattle. He married Rosario Gonzalez, and during this period he published - under the pen name Paul Record - an ethnographic novel about his own community and coauthored several publications on the Olmec with Robert Heizer. Returning to the United States in 1967, Drucker taught anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and later at the University of Colorado, and eventually accepted a position at the University of Kentucky in 1968. Drucker remained active as author, lecturer and ethnographer until his death in Lexington, Kentucky in 1982.

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