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Robert Eliot Smith Papers

Identifier: MS-0011

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.

Series I:  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.

Series II: 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

Series III: Professional Activities: Includes material relating to Smith's work with the Carnegie Institute of Washington, Institute Nacional de Antropologia, conferences, and societies.

Series IV: Smith's Publications: Includes Smith's monographs and published articles.

Series V: 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 subjects.

Series VI: Miscellany: Includes items that were not identifiable for other sections in the collection, such as Central American maps, and guide booklets to ruins.

Series VII: 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.

Series VIII: 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 publications.

Series IX: Oversize: Includes graphic display material, and a site settlement map of Litio de Coba, Quintana Roo.


  • Creation: 1929-1983


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Biographical Note

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.


16.67 Linear Feet

Language of Materials




Robert Eliot Smith Papers
Bill Payne
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US