Professional papers of archaeologist and curator Emma Lou Davis (1905-1988), including excavation notes, correspondence, and
Dr. Emma Lou Davis (1905-1988) was an anthropologist and San Diego Museum of Man curator who studied Paleo-Indian archaeology
in the California deserts. Born in Indiana, Davis had a successful career in art and design which led her to travel all over
the United States, Russia, and China. Davis worked in several American art museums before serving as an aircraft designer
during World War II and becoming a furniture designer after the war. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology in 1964 and was
curator of the San Diego Museum of Man (then the San Diego Museum) from 1966 to 1971.
With her excavations at China Lake, Davis presented evidence that southern California had been inhabited much earlier than
previously estimated. She was a proponent of an interdisciplinary approach that combined anthropology, geology, paleoclimatology,
and other fields. Davis also criticized the archaeological paradigm that approached sites as groups of artifacts of a common
style. Instead, she focused on the religions and material cultures of people who had produced the artifacts. Dr. Davis founded
the Great Basin Foundation and authored over 70 books and articles. Today, she is widely considered an important figure in
bringing scientific rigor and credibility to Paleo-Indian archaeology in California.
The museum can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Diego
Museum of Man as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder,
which must also be obtained by the researcher.
The collection is open to on-site researchers. Research visits must be arranged with the collections department in advance.
One folder containing records of a site with human remains has been restricted in accordance with museum policy. Additional
permissions are required for access.