Overview of the Collection
Scope and Contents
Overview of the Collection
Collection Title: Robert Eliot Smith Papers
Smith, Robert Eliot, 1899-
Physical Description: 16.67 linear ft
Language of Materials:
Special Collections & University Archives
5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego, CA, 92182-8050
Robert Eliot Smith was born in Arcahan, France, on May 24, 1899. He received his primary and secondary education while living
in Switzerland and Massauchusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1922 with a degree in history and romance languages.
Smith became involved in archaeology in 1929 when he accompanied his brother Ledyard, who was doing fieldwork at Uaxtactun,
Guatemala. Smith returned to Harvard and began taking graduate courses in archaeology. He accepted a position with the Carnegie
Institution of Washington and spent the next twenty years as the Carnegie's Guatemala City representative.
Smith was a member of the Carnegie Institution from 1932-1960, associate archaeologist for the Instituto Nacional de Antropoligia
e Historia de Mexico from 1960-1962, and helped establish the National Museum of Antropologia in Guatemala City. Smith ended
his career as a research associate of Middle American ceramics at Harvard University's Peabody Museum from 1965-1968, and
as an honorary research associate of that institution until his death in 1983.
This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Genre/Form of Material:
Central America -- Antiquities
Mexico -- Antiquities
Smith, Robert Eliot, 1899- -- Archives
Smith, Robert Eliot, 1899- -- Correspondence
Archaeologists -- Correspondence
Archaeology -- Central America -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
Archaeology -- Mexico -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
Indian pottery -- Central America
Indian pottery -- Mexico
Conditions Governing Use:
The copyright interests in these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with
the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections
is such that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. Requests for permission to publish must be
submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. When granted, permission
is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission
of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available
for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including
but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.
Conditions Governing Access:
This collection is open for research.
Identification of item, folder title, box number, Robert Eliot Smith Papers, Special Collections and University Archives,
Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.
Scope and Contents
The collection includes Smith's notes and working drafts used for the preparation of his publications, a record of his professional
activities as the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Guatemala City representative, photographs of Mesoamerican pottery,
and correspondence between Smith and other Mesoamericanists of his time. The collection provides important biographical and
collaborative information about Smith, as well as the history of Mesoamerican archaeology. The majority of documents in the
collection are not dated, thus (ca.) is used for approximate date.
Correspondence: Includes letters, filed alphabetically, to and from many Mesoamerican archaeologists of the first two-thirds of the twentieth
century. Also includes circulated and informational correspondence about and between these archaeologists.
Notes and Drafts: Includes notes and drafts that Smith compiled for research and publication. The majority are written in pencil and some
are not discernable as to the exact site or subject, and a number are very detailed or extensive in ceramic data and nomenclature.
Folders are separated into four sections by site: Pyramid of the Sun: 1-54; Mayapan: 55-57; Uaxactun: 58-64; and miscellaneous
notes and drafts: 65-94
Professional Activities: Includes material relating to Smith's work with the Carnegie Institute of Washington, Institute Nacional de Antropologia,
conferences, and societies.
Smith's Publications: Includes Smith's monographs and published articles.
Publications by Smith's Contemporaries: Alphabetical listing of published articles and monographs in the collection written by Smith's contemporaries. Also included
are one folder of Spanish language monographs of various authors and subjects; six folders of miscellaneous scholarly published
monographs covering a number of topics, and two folders of newspaper clippings and articles written about various archaeological
Miscellany: Includes items that were not identifiable for other sections in the collection, such as Central American maps, and guide
booklets to ruins.
Photographs: Includes many photographs, some negatives and slides of Mesoamerican pottery, figurines, and sherds. Each folder is identified
by site in alphabetical order, and many of the photographs have written descriptions on the back. One folder, labeled miscellaneous
photos, contains a number of unidentified photographs.
Note and Bibliographic Cards: Includes approximately three hundred 3x5, 5x7, and 5x11 index cards describing ceramics. Some have extensive information
on particular ceramic pieces. There are also four boxes of bibliographic information cards on a number of Mesoamerican ceramic
Oversize: Includes graphic display material, and a site settlement map of Litio de Coba, Quintana Roo.