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Excavation of Tres Zapotes Stela D, 1939

Expedition Members

Matthew and Marion Stirling. Boca San Miguel, Veracruz,  1939. wetmore_626. Photograph by Alexander Wetmore, Smithsonian Institution  Archives
Matthew and Marion Stirling. Boca San Miguel, Veracruz, 1939. wetmore_626.
Photograph by Alexander Wetmore, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Matthew W. Stirling, Chief of the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology, led the eight Smithsonian Institution - National Geographic Society Archaeological Expeditions from 1939 to 1946. Marion Illig Stirling, his wife, collaborated with him during all but one of the expeditions. Richard H. Stewart, photographer with the National Geographic Society, joined the Stirlings on all eight expeditions to Mexico.

While these three formed the core team of the eight expeditions, several others joined them during one or more of the field seasons. Dr. Alexander Wetmore, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and Vice-Chairman of the National Geographic Society's Committee on Research, was a renowned ornithologist. He joined the first expedition in 1939 to study the birdlife in the environs of Tres Zapotes in Veracruz and to collect specimens for the Smithsonian Institution.

Clarence W. Weiant, a Ph.D. student in anthropology joined the 1939 expedition as assistant archaeologist, accompanied by his wife Marian. Stirling invited Edwin G. Cassedy, an artist with the Bureau of American Ethnology, to join the 1939 expedition. Cassedy copied the designs in the carved monuments they found and surveyed the region, adding details to the existing maps of the area.

Dr. D. Juan Valenzuela, a Mexican archaeologist, and Karl Ruppert of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., briefly visited Stirling and his team during the first field season at Tres Zapotes.

Philip Drucker joined the 1940 expedition as assistant archaeologist for the second field season at Tres Zapotes, replacing Weiant. Drucker was a member of four "Stirling expeditions," (1940, '41, '42 and '46) and was one of the principal investigators during the 1955 expedition to La Venta. M.A. Carriker, an ornithologist, joined the 1940 expedition to continue the work that Wetmore had started the previous field season.

Miguel and Rose Covarrubias visited the 1941 expedition at Cerro de las Mesas in Veracruz. While not an archaeologist, nor directly involved with any of the expeditions, Miguel Covarrubias played an important role in the interpretation of the expeditions' archaeological finds.

Waldo Wedel, assistant curator of the U.S. National Museum, Division of Archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution, joined the 1943 expedition to La Venta, filling in for Drucker, who was serving in the U.S. Navy. Walter Weber, a Smithsonian artist and ornithologist, also joined the expedition in 1943.

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