Robert Wauchope (archaeologist)

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Robert Wauchope (December 10, 1909 – January 20, 1979) was an American archaeologist and anthropologist, whose academic research specialized in the prehistory and archaeology of Latin America, Mesoamerica, and the Southwestern United States.

Wauchope was born to George Armstrong Wauchope and Elizabeth Bostedo Wauchope in Columbia, South Carolina on December 10, 1909. His interest in archaeology developed early as an Eagle Scout[citation needed], and upon graduating high school, he wrote Alfred V. Kidder and asked to join him on excavations at Pecos, New Mexico. Kidder accepted Robert’s request and invited him to be an assistant at the Forked Lightning Ruin site.[1]

Robert attended the First Pecos Conference in 1927 where he met H.S. and C.B. Cosgrove, who invited him to their 1928–1929 excavations at Stallings Island, Georgia. After leaving Stallings Island, he attended the University of South Carolina where he received a bachelor's degree in English in 1931.

He enrolled at Harvard University in 1931 with his interests focused on archaeology. During 1932, Wauchope accompanied Alfred V. Kidder during excavations at Uaxactun, Guatemala. In 1938, he graduated from Harvard with a Ph.D. in anthropology, and took a job at the University of Georgia teaching anthropology courses and Southeastern prehistory. Wauchope held his position for 18 months between 1939 and 1941. He is noted for being the first archaeology professor at the University of Georgia, though his career was predominantly at Tulane University at the Middle American Research Institute.

Throughout his tenure at the University of Georgia, Wauchope directed the WPA archaeological survey of Georgia. He surveyed over 200 sites north of Macon, and excavated 23 sites in Macon, Savannah, Stallings Island, and at Etowah. Wauchope developed and ran an archaeology laboratory at the University of Georgia, in addition to setting up the states first detailed archaeological site file. He played a large part in developing the ceramic sequence for north Georgia during the two years he was there.

In 1940, Wauchope was hired as associate professor of anthropology and director of the Laboratory of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In 1943 Wauchope was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services in the Mediterranean for the duration of the war.[citation needed]

Wauchope is noted for his extensive work on house mounds in Uaxactun, Guatemala. The study of these sites is one of the most extensive of its kind, pertaining to household archaeology of the Maya area and modern Maya house. In 1947 he continued his work on his previous research from 1935-1936 at Zacualpa, in the Guatemalan highlands. 1947-1957 Wauchope taught a multidisciplinary Middle American research program with weekly seminars, working with other Latin American scholars at Tulane. During the 1950s Wauchope was asked to be general editor of the Handbook of Middle American Indians.[2] The Handbook was assembled at Tulane and consisted of 16 volumes, the last four of which were guides to sources on Middle American (more currently called Mesoamerican) ethnohistory, edited by Howard F. Cline. It was published by the University of Texas press from 1964-1976 with Margaret Harrison as the editor to the handbook. Wauchope did not engage in any field work after his work in 1957 until 1974 when he returned to Guatemala to work on small sites near Asuncion Mita.

Wauchope is respected for his long and celebrated time with the Middle America Research Institute, as well as building a foundation and picking early staff for Tulane University. In 1967 Tulane had a single independent anthropology facility, no longer joint with the sociology department.

Wauchope is an uncle of underwater archaeologist George F. Bass.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrews and Harrison (1981, pp.113–115).
  2. ^ Handbook on Middle American Indians Robert Wauchope, general editor. University of Texas Press 1964-1976


Andrews, E. Wyllys, V; Margaret A.L. Harrison (January 1981). "Obituary: Robert Wauchope, 1909-1979". American Antiquity. Washington, DC: Society for American Archaeology. 46 (1): 113–127. ISSN 0002-7316. JSTOR 279990. OCLC 49976423.

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