Emma Louise Davis, 82; Sculptor, Ex-Curator


Emma Louise Davis, a sculptor and former curator of archeology at the San Diego Museum of Man, died at her Point Loma home Wednesday morning at the age of 82. Davis had experienced heart trouble and suffered two strokes since 1982.

She was born in Indiana and graduated from Vassar in 1927. Her first professional sculpture exhibit appeared in 1935 at the Peking National Gallery in China. Today her work is displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other places.

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


After receiving her doctorate in anthropology from UCLA, in 1966 she became curator of archeology at the Museum of Man and remained in that position until 1970.

Far from thinking about retirement, 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 this time she also founded the Great Basin Foundation, a privately funded anthropological research group. She also published 71 books and articles on anthropology and archeology.

An ardent feminist, Davis, at age 75, was one of the first women to be admitted to membership in the Explorer’s Club, a male-dominated mountaineering group. Davis is survived by a niece and nephew.