Emma Louise Davis, Former Museum of Man Curator, Dies

Times Staff Writer

Emma Louise Davis, listed as one of the top 50 archeologists in the country and a former curator of archeology at the San Diego Museum of Man, died at her Point Loma home Wednesday morning. She was 82.

Davis had experienced heart trouble and had suffered two strokes since 1982.

She was born in Indiana and graduated from Vassar in 1927. She was an internationally known sculptor, her first professional exhibit appearing in 1935 at the Peking National Gallery in China. Today her work is displayed at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Gallery in New York.

During World War II, Davis was a draftsman and an aircraft designer for Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach. She was also a union organizer and, directly after the war, taught fine arts at Reed College in Oregon and at the University of North Carolina.


In 1957, Davis enrolled at UCLA and received a doctorate in anthropology. In 1966, she became curator of archeology at the Museum of Man and remained in that position until 1970.

Far from thinking about retirement, at 65 Davis went on to become a research associate at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, where she remained until her first stroke in 1982. During that time she also founded the Great Basin Foundation, a privately funded anthropological research group.

An ardent feminist, Davis, at age 75, was one of the first women to be admitted to the Explorer’s Club, a male-dominated mountaineering group. She also has 71 published books and articles on anthropology and archeology to her credit.

Davis is survived by a niece and nephew.


A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 6 in the St. Francis Chapel at the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. Donations may be sent in Davis’ name to Amnesty International.