Smithsonian Olmec Legacy

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

Waldo R. Wedel
1908 - 1996

Portrait of Wedel

Waldo Wedel was born and raised on the Great Plains in Kansas. His college education began at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. He received a B.A. from the University of Arizona in 1930 and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska in 1931. In 1936 he became the first person to receive a Ph.D. in archaeology from the University of California.

From 1936 until his retirement in 1977, Waldo Wedel worked at the Smithsonian Institution, first as assistant curator for the U.S. National Museum, Division of Archaeology, then as curator (starting in 1950) and ultimately as head curator (starting in 1962). In 1939 he married Mildred Mott, an ethnohistorian interested in the Plains Indians. They were married for 56 years and throughout their lives explored Plains archaeology and ethnohistory together. From 1946 to 1950 he established and directed the Missouri River Basin Project of the Bureau of American Ethnology River Basin Survey. Wedel conducted archaeological projects in Kansas, Nebraska, California, Maryland, Virginia and Mexico. His contributions to Plains archaeology are of particular significance.

In 1943 Wedel joined Matthew Stirling's archaeological expedition to La Venta. Among his discoveries during that field season was a greenstone paving block mosaic, a cist with numerous jade artifacts and a four-foot stone monkey. Wedel was a member and officer of numerous scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the Society for American Archaeology, the Anthropological Society of Washington.

Waldo Wedel died in Boulder, Colorado in 1996.

[ TOP ]