Current volunteers and staff from left to right: Sedonna Goeman-Shulsky, Jean Moore, Sedna Villavicencio, Wendy Giddens Teeter, Mercedes Duque, James Darcy, Arielle Sperber, and Xochitl Aguinaga.
The Fowler Museum Archaeology Collections Facility serves as the custodian of more than five million archaeological artifacts, as well as associated documentation (catalogs, excavation notes, maps, photographs, etc) primarily from UCLA led academic excavations that have occurred over the last fifty years. The Fowler Archaeology Collections Facility most strongly reflects the histories of California and the Southwest. While the facility serves as a repository for Los Angeles County history, there are large collections from the American Southwest, Mexico, and the Sudan, as well as smaller collections from Central and South America, Australia, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Staff actively work with Native American tribes and descendent communities, especially those from Southern California who come regularly to visit and provide guidance and support for the care of their rich material culture. This Office ensures compliance with guidelines mandated by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990 and has been officially recognized twice by the State of California for exemplary efforts to comply with these federal regulations.
The California collections represent 1,100 sites, most located in Southern California from both academic and cultural resource management projects. Almost every time period in Los Angeles history is documented through these rich cultural materials dating from at least 8,000 years ago to the 1950s. Recent additions to the collections include cultural artifacts from the San Gabriel Mission mill race and the Echo Park Lake Recreation Area built in the 1860s.
The largest archaeological collection comes from the Playa Vista Archaeological and Historical Project, excavated near Marina del Rey in west Los Angeles. Estuary resources attracted human populations to this area for at least 8,000 years, and many ancient settlements were established along the shores and creeks of the lagoon including the Gabrielino/Tongva village of Guaspet. The collections also reflect the Spanish, Mexican, and American periods of agricultural production, rural recreational activities, oil production, and aircraft manufacturing.
Among the Southwest materials are significant objects and primary resource materials from the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition (1933–1938), conducted by Ansel F. Hall, who would ultimately become the chief naturalist of the National Park Service. This endeavor was remarkable in that Hall brought together 250 geologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, biologists, photographers, cinematographers, and topographical engineers to study the Pueblo peoples who had settled in the region during the early thirteenth century. Additional artifacts in the Southwest collection come from various Anasazi and Hohokam sites.
Many of our collections are actively used in new scientific research projects. For example in 2013 George Cowgill and Deborah Nichols published the results from their NSF-funded research project to reexamine collections from Cerro Portezuelo, Mexico [i]. The Cerro Portezuelo Collection documents excavations conducted in Mexico by two UCLA professors, George Brainerd in 1954-1955 and H. B. Nicholson in 1957. Located near the shores of Lake Texcoco in present-day Mexico City, Cerro Portezuelo thrived from the Classic to the Postclassic period (350–1500 CE). It developed during the florescence of Teotihuacan but survived into the time of the Aztec Empire. The ceramic objects in the collection therefore represent the most complete and unbroken sequence in the region, making them invaluable for understanding the changing politics and social climate in Mexico over this lengthy time period. Additionally there are materials housed in the Mexican collections from 217 other cultural sites located primarily in western and central Mexico.
Stuart Smith from UC Santa Barbara has led research projects for over a decade using the collection from the Egyptian fortress site of Askut, Sudan [ii]. This collection was originally excavated by UCLA archaeologist Alexander Badawy from 1962–1964 in conjunction with the Aswan High Dam Salvage Campaign. The collection numbers approximately sixty thousand artifacts in size and includes pottery, figurines, stone, metal, and bone jewelry and tools, dyed textiles, and small stone hieroglyphic texts that reflect the daily life of this Egyptian outpost in ancient Nubia.
Carrying Our Ancestors Home, a project founded by UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center and the Fowler Museum under the directorship of Dr. Mishuana Goeman and Dr. Wendy Teeter, seeks to illuminate previously unengaged practices and infrastructure behind the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and how Native people regard various aspects of the law, and the work they do to enact and enforce it. To achieve this goal, we have collaborated with native cultural practitioners, tribal members, professionals, and academics in the Southern California area in our creation of a digital educational resource webpage about repatriation of ancestral remains and cultural items. We have produced original materials in the form of short educational videos engaging various understandings what repatriation looks like from the perspective of tribal practitioners, institutional managers of NAGPRA, and those working on legal compliance. We are grateful for our UCLA sponsors: UCLA American Indian Studies Center, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, UCLA Institute of American Cultures, Vice Chancellor of Research Roger Wakimoto, and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott L. Waugh as well as Tribal partners from across the world, we are developing an online educational resource about repatriation.
The Archaeology Collections staff and volunteers work on various digitization projects year round. Digitization of archaeological materials and archival records is important to the preservation of knowledge, and also allows us to share information with researchers and members of the public.
In this project we aim to provide a digital map of the layered, sedimented geographies of Indigenous Los Angeles through digital storytelling and community-based research collaboration. Our project includes the Gabrielino/Tongva and the Tataviam, the first people of Los Angeles, who struggle for recognition of their sacred spaces and their political rights, American Indians who were displaced through governmental policies, as well as the indigenous diasporas from Latin America (LAID) and Oceania (AP) — people displaced by militarism, neoliberal economic policies, and overlapping colonial histories.