Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Robert Fleming Heizer Papers, ca. 1851-1980
Microfilm: BANC FILM 2106 Originals: BANC MSS 78/17 c  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (341.50 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Acknowledgments
  • Biographical Sketch
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Robert Fleming Heizer Papers,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1851-1980
    Collection Number: Microfilm: BANC FILM 2106

    Originals: BANC MSS 78/17 c
    Creator: Heizer, Robert Fleming, 1915-
    Extent: Microfilm: 173 reels Originals: 38 cartons, 1 box, 8 volumes, and 3 oversize folders Linear feet: Approximately 48.5
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Abstract: Heizer directed important field work in the Sacramento Valley of California, near Lovelock, Nevada, and the Mayan sites of La Venta, Tabasco, Mexico and Abaj Takalik, Guatemala. He published more than 500 books and articles concerning archaeology and anthropology. He served as an expert witness in the Indian land claims cases Clyde F. Thompson et. al. v. United States, Docket No. 31, and Ernest Risling et. al. v. United States, Docket No. 37.
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is available on microfilm only. Originals are not available for use. Collection is open for research, with the following exception: the contents of Box 1 are closed to research until December 31, 2031. (Box 1 has not been microfilmed.)

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the curator, History of Science and Technology Collection. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library 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 reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Robert Fleming Heizer papers, BANC FILM 2106 (Originals: BANC MSS 78/17 c), The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Title: Robert Fleming Heizer [Collection of miscellaneous maps],
    Identifier/Call Number: G9990.H4
    Title: A. L. Kroeber Papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC FILM 2049, Series 4, Indian Land Claims
    Title: C. Hart Merriam Papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC FILM 1022
    Title: William C. Sturtevant Papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 77/60 c
    Title: Records of the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley,
    Identifier/Call Number: CU-23

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Selected maps have been transferred to the Map Collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Robert Fleming Heizer Papers (BANC MSS 78/17 c), donated to The Bancroft Library by Robert Fleming Heizer and Michael Heizer, are a consolidation of the following collections:
    • BANC MSS 67/179 m
    • BANC MSS 77/71 c
    • BANC MSS 77/72 c
    • BANC MSS 80/11 c
    • BANC MSS 82/41 c
    • BANC MSS C-R 142


    The archival processing and microfilming of the Robert Fleming Heizer Papers have been made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Title II-C, Strengthening Research Library Resources Program. The project was jointly carried out by the University of California, Berkeley Library Preservation Department, and The Bancroft Library.


    We wish to thank the many individuals at the University of California, Berkeley, and at BMI Imaging Systems, in Sunnyvale, California, who made it possible for us to complete the archival processing and microfilming of the Robert F. Heizer Papers.
    We are grateful for the extreme care and attention to detail demonstrated by Meg Cudal, Jan Hawley, Muoi Huynh, Dennis Jefferson, Robert Piercy, and Dody Van Dyke, and Miyeko Wong of BMI Imaging Systems.
    Our colleagues in the U.C. Berkeley Library Preservation Department, including Valinda Caroll, Nancy Harris, Lynn Jones, Barclay Ogden, Cameron Olen, Wendy Partridge, and Ann Swartzell, obtained the grant funding, handled the accounting, and performed the necessary preservation treatments with skill and dispatch.
    William M. Roberts, University Archivist, gave us the benefit of his expert curatorial judgement.
    Student assistants Erica Boyd, Susanna Franco, Jessica Lage, Brian C. Pierini, Benjamin Scott, Sierra Van Borst, and Iris Vicencio-Garagay worked diligently on every aspect of the project.
    Staff members of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, including administrative analyst Kathleen Butler, senior project archaeologist Edward Luby, and principal photographer Eugene R. Prince, gave us their invaluable assistance in identifying photographs made of excavation sites, and in understanding archaeological terminology and records-keeping practices. Museum conservator Madeleine Fang skillfully treated and housed the Juan Bautista de Anza artifacts found in the collection.
    Former Anthropology Department staff editor Grace Buzaljko, and retired senior research archaeologist Albert B. Elsasser, aided immeasurably in the identification of correspondents and made many helpful suggestions.

    Biographical Sketch

    Robert Fleming Heizer (1915-1979) was a highly influential professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a recognized expert on Native American and Mesoamerican archaeology. He conducted extensive research on the native peoples of California, Nevada, Alaska, Mexico, and Guatemala, and published numerous books, articles, and reports on his findings. Heizer's assiduous scholarship won him fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Nevada, and election to the National Academy of Sciences. Although he was known to be demanding, competitive, and at times controversial, his students and colleagues appreciated the generosity with which he shared his knowledge and his dedication to the rigorous analysis of archaeological data.
    Heizer was born in Denver, Colorado on July 13, 1915, to Martha Madden and Ott Fleming Heizer. When Robert was a young boy, the family moved from Denver to Lovelock, Nevada, where Heizer's childhood explorations and avid reading kindled his interest in Native American culture. He graduated from Lovelock High School, and was determined to earn a degree in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. Before attending Berkeley, Heizer enrolled in Sacramento Junior College, where the college president, Jeremiah Beverley Lillard, fostered Heizer's interest in archaeological excavation.
    Heizer transferred to U.C. Berkeley in 1934, and he received his bachelor's degree in anthropology in 1936. He continued his graduate studies at Berkeley under Alfred L. Kroeber. When the time came for Heizer to write his dissertation, Kroeber discouraged him from writing on a purely archaeological subject. Heizer completed his dissertation on aboriginal whaling (instead of Central Valley archaeology, as he had intended), and received his doctorate in 1941.
    After teaching for a year at the University of Oregon, working as a pipefitter during World War II, and teaching for a year at University of California, Los Angeles, Heizer returned to Berkeley in 1946 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to professor in 1952, and continued to teach, write, conduct research, and direct field work with students until the end of his life. One of Heizer's most notable roles at Berkeley was as the founder and director of the University of California Archaeological Survey. Established in 1948, the Survey, which specialized in the archaeology of California and Nevada, was a pioneer example of a university-affiliated archaeological program in the United States. Spurred by Heizer's belief that field work, laboratory projects, or any type of archaeological endeavor lacked value unless the results were published, the Survey (and its successor, the Archaeological Research Facility) made a priority of disseminating the findings of the work conducted under its auspices.
    Heizer's research had a profound impact in archaeological and anthropological circles. In all, nearly 500 publications bear Heizer's name, either as the sole author, editor, or collaborator. His research interests ran the gamut: from Great Basin and California prehistory to human coprolite analysis; from Indian land claims cases to rock art; from historical archaeology to ancient methods of heavy transport. Heizer's investigations were not limited to the continental United States. He conducted excavations in the Aleutian Islands (with Aleŝ Hrdliĉka), La Venta and Cuicuilco, Mexico, Abaj Takalik, Guatemala, and Egypt.
    Heizer's myriad accomplishments included editing both the papers and photographs pertaining to North American Indians of C. Hart Merriam, and revising the California volume of the Smithsonian Institution's Handbook of North American Indians. He participated in the quest for Sir Francis Drake's landing place on the Northern California coast, and published an account of the hunt entitled Elizabethan California. He also directed the excavation and authentication of the remains of Juan Bautista de Anza, the founder of San Francisco.
    As a teacher, Heizer's contribution was perhaps greatest in his guidance of the research of younger scholars. Students working with him learned to investigate new approaches to methodology and theory. Heizer's knowledge of the archaeological literature was au courant and encyclopedic. He utilized the latest technology for the radiocarbon dating of artifacts. Heizer's students and colleagues were strongly influenced by his tremendous curiosity, energy and enthusiasm. They respected his opinions, which were delivered in a frank, and at times caustic, manner.
    Robert and Nancy Jenkins Heizer had three children, Michael, Stephen, and Sydney. The Heizers were married for 35 years before they divorced in 1975. Heizer retired in 1977, and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1978. He died on July 18, 1979, at the age of 64.


    • Baumhoff, Martin A. Obituaries, American Anthropologist, vol. 82, December, 1980, pp. 843- 847.
    • Clark, J. Desmond, George M. Foster, and David G. Mandelbaum. In Memoriam, University of California, September, 1980, pp. 114-115.
    • Hester, Thomas R. Obituaries, American Antiquity, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 99-107.
    • Obituary, New York Times, July 20, 1979.

    Scope and Content

    The Robert F. Heizer Papers provide a vantage point from which to examine the distinguished career of one of the best-known archaeologists educated at the University of California, Berkeley. Heizer was motivated to carry out significant field work in the Western United States and Mesoamerica, and to publish extensively on archaeology and anthropology, by his U.C. Berkeley mentor, Alfred L. Kroeber.
    The three richest series, which best exemplify Heizer's fruitful career, are those containing his correspondence (Series 1), writings (Series 2), and archaeological excavation records (Series 4). Series 1 is extensive, and shows Heizer to have been a diligent correspondent, even while consumed by the considerable demands of teaching, field work, writing, and directing the University of California Archaeological Survey (later re-named the Archaeological Research Facility). His correspondence, mostly professional in nature, contains letters to and from such prominent colleagues as: Ernst Antevs, Ignacio Bernal, J. Desmond Clark, Michael D. Coe, Sherburne Friend Cook, Frederica De Laguna, Philip Drucker, Loren C. Eiseley, Edward Winslow Gifford, Aleŝ Hrdliĉka, Isabell Truesdell Kelly, Alfred L. Kroeber, Robert Harry Lowie, Leslie Spier, and Sherwood Larned Washburn, among many others.
    Heizer was a remarkably prolific writer. His extensive research and field work led to the publication of nearly 500 articles, books, and book reviews on an impressive array of subjects. The papers in Series 2 document his work as the editor of A Manual of Archaeological Field Methods (originally published in 1949, and revised in 1975 as Field Methods in Archaeology, with co-authors Thomas R. Hester and John Allen Graham); as co-author, with Frank Hole, of An Introduction to Prehistoric Archeology (1965); and as editor of the revised California volume of the Handbook of North American Indians (1978). Other significant publications include The California Indians(with Mary Ann Whipple, 1951); Archaeology of the Uyak Site, Kodiak Island, Alaska (1956); The Archaeology of Humboldt Cave, Churchill County, Nevada (with Alex Dony Krieger, 1956); Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California (with Martin A. Baumhoff, 1962); and Studies on the Chemical Analysis of Archaeological Sites (with Sherburne Friend Cook, 1965).
    Heizer's interest in archaeological field work began as early as his junior college days, and Series 4 contains records of excavations made in 1933-1934. During his teaching career at Berkeley, Heizer and his students made repeated field trips to the Sacramento Valley in California, and the Humboldt Valley in Nevada. He took photographs, made sketches, and wrote detailed notes concerning excavation sites, their locations, and the artifacts found, all the while seeking to understand the material cultures and life ways of the prehistoric residents of those regions. Archaeological sites in California and Nevada that Heizer explored and documented include the Cooper-Molera Adobe and Drake's Bay, California, and Leonard Rockshelter, Lovelock Cave, Tule Springs, and Winemucca Lake Caves, Nevada. Among the best-described archaeological sites Heizer worked at outside of the United States are the important Mayan ruins at Abaj Takalik, Guatemala and the Olmec ruins at La Venta, Mexico; and the Arizpe, Sonora burial site of the Mexican soldier and colonizer of San Francisco Bay, Juan Bautista de Anza.
    Throughout the 1950's, Heizer served as an expert witness on behalf of the California Indians in their successful suit against the United States Government for lands taken from them without compensation. Heizer's meticulous research materials, a sample of which is contained in Series 3, Indian Land Claims, helped to prove the Indians' case by establishing aboriginal title to the lands and authenticating tribal boundaries. This series does not contain a full set of court records, but rather it documents Heizer's personal interests and involvement in the case, including a collection of the hearing exhibits gathered by another expert witness, Heizer's U.C. Berkeley colleague, Sherburne Friend Cook. Most of these exhibits, many of which are historical accounts of conflicts between Native Americans and whites, were not actually submitted for the hearing. But they formed the basis for some of Heizer's later research and writings.
    Series 5 gives a broad overview of Heizer's professional activities undertaken in addition to writing and field work. His course and research notes, although not extensive, show how his writings and scholarly work informed his teaching, whether in the classroom or in the field. The same series proves that Heizer did not shirk his campus and departmental administrative duties. He consistently sought grant funding to further his work and that of his students. He took an active role in numerous professional conferences and organizations, such as the Society for American Archaeology, entering into the profession's lively debates on such topics as the exportation and sale of cultural treasures from Third World countries.
    The Subject Files, Series 6, focus on two of Heizer's special interests, the controversy over the precise Northern California landing site of Sir Francis Drake, and the utilization of radiocarbon dating technology to establish the age of specimens found at sites in California, Nevada, Mexico, and Peru. The miscellaneous subject files contain some interesting material which was originally compiled by C. Hart Merriam, including comparative vocabulary charts of California linguistic groups.
    Series 7 is brief, but it allows the researcher to follow Heizer's professional career. The series includes notes taken by him in three anthropology courses while an undergraduate, as well as information about his doctoral program, shipyard work during World War II, teaching career at U.C. Berkeley, and the awards he received.