Thomas H. Charlton, Ph.D. (1938-2010)

A memorial by Meredith C. Anderson

Dr. Thomas H. Charlton built his professional life around a pursuit he truly loved, archaeology. Although his untimely passing interrupted a number of important and ongoing projects, some described here, his legacy as a prominent Mesoamerican archaeologist and influential local archaeologist should not be forgotten, as his contributions have made an indelible mark on the profession itself.

Dr. Charlton's career encompassed a rich variety of interests and objectives, including teaching, mentoring, community involvement, academic research, preservation, and public outreach. His archaeological research ranged from local history, as evidenced by his directorship and involvement in the Plum Grove archaeological field school and research, to broader international prehistory, as evidenced by his work in Belize, Ontario, and, above all, Mexico. His field work and lab research in Mexico are perhaps some of his more widely-recognized and crowning professional achievements. He earned his doctorate in 1966 from Tulane University. His doctorate was based on surface survey and excavations with William Sanders's seminal Teotihuacan Valley Project, which Dr. Charlton participated in from June 1963 to September 1964. The Teotihuacan Valley Project provided an imperative body of research and data which has since shaped and guided further research in the valley and throughout Mesoamerica.

After publishing his dissertation research (1973), Dr. Charlton's work in Mexico continued with a number of survey and data recovery projects in the Basin of Mexico, including surface survey of trade routes throughout central Mexico (1975-1976), excavation and surface survey of PreConquest canal systems (1977-1978), surface surveys and excavations at Otumba (1987-1989), and a number of continuing projects which have gathered prominent funding and notoriety over the years. Two of these projects, continuing direction and analyses of data recovered in Otumba and excavations and material analysis at five rural Teotihuacan sites throughout the Valley (1989-2010 and 1998-2010), in collaboration with Cynthia Otis Charlton, were conceived in part by Dr. Charlton's recognition that invaluable archaeological resources in the basin of Mexico were being destroyed by urban development, without the benefit of professional mitigation. His rigorous research emphasis on salvage archaeology earned him emergency research funding through the University of Iowa's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as a number of travel grants, a UI Arts and Humanities Initiative Award, a National Science Foundation grant, and a research grant from the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, among others. He also directed other ongoing projects in Mexico focusing on analysis of pre-hispanic and Colonial materials from the Templo Mayor (1992-2010), and pre-hispanic and Colonial materials from Tlatelolco (1993-2010).

Locally, Dr. Charlton directed excavations and research at Plum Grove, an historical farm built in 1844 and located in Iowa City. He spearheaded a field school through the University of Iowa at this important historical archaeological site; the field school started in 1974 and ran from 1978-1980, and again from 1995-2010. His involvement at Plum Grove did not begin and end with the field school season, however. He was also actively involved in Plum Grove public outreach, education, designing interpretive displays and interpretive research, which he often presented at conferences. He was also working to secure funding for analysis on Plum Grove materials before he passed away.

Beyond the field and lab, Dr. Charlton worked tirelessly as a community and academic leader. He served as a member of the Plum Grove Advisory Committee from 1992-2010 and also served on numerous committees at the University of Iowa, including search committees, the University Libraries Committee, the Humanities Task Force Committee, and the Graduate Admissions Committee, to name a few. Within the University, he played a substantial role as not only tenured professor (from 1980-2010), but also Anthropology Undergraduate Advisor (1996-2010), DEO (1985-1988), and chair to a number of PhD and MA committees. He also directed over 11 BA honors theses.

In addition to teaching introductory Anthropology courses, such as the Department's bread-and-butter Introduction to Prehistory and Human Origins courses, Dr. Charlton also introduced a number of new classes to the Department's course offerings, such as “Historical Archaeology: the Archaeology of US” and “Reading,'riting, and 'rithmetic: Mesoamerican Literature and Mathematical Systems.” He also taught a number of region-specific classes, such as “The Maya” and “The Aztecs, Their Predecessors and Contemporaries,” as well as broader curricula, such as “Comparative Prehistory” and “Seminar in Archaeological Method and Theory.” The academic community greatly benefited from Dr. Charlton‟s insight and dedication to meticulous research and ethical archaeological practices. He sat on several editorial boards, contributing to publications such as Cuicuilco (ENAH, Mexico) from 2004-2010, Ancient Mesoamerica (University of Cambridge Press) from 2001-2012, and Monografias Mesoamericanas (Universidad de las Americas, Puebla) from 1992-2010. He served as a general grant reviewer for funding institutions such as NSF, NEH, National Geographic, and WennerGren, and provided general manuscript review for the University of Utah Press, Allyn and Bacon, Oxford University Press, Ancient MesoamericaLatin American AntiquityAmerican AntiquityJournal of Anthropological ArchaeologyCurrent Anthropology, and Journal of Archaeological Sciences

As an active and thorough scholar, he received a large number of grants and scholarships, including National Endowment for the Humanities research grants (1975-1976; 1981-1983; 1988-1989; and 1992-1993), NSF research grants (1968-1972; 1988-1990; and 1997-2001), and a grant from the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (1998-1999). These supported not only his  recurrent travels to Mexico for research, conferences, field work, and seminars, but also supported the writing and research that went into his various book chapters (7 in press, 38 published), articles (1 in press, 39 published), book reviews (2 in press, 25 published), and over 70 annual research reports.  He also co-edited 3 books, including The Archaeology of City-States: Cross-Cultural Approaches (1997), organized numerous symposia and workshops, and presented papers frequently at local, regional, and international conferences and seminars.

June Helm, Ph.D. (1924-2004)

Department Founder

June Helm, Professor Emerita of Anthropology at The University of Iowa, died in Iowa City on February 5, 2004. Helm spent fifty years conducting research on the culture and ethnohistory of the Mackenzie-drainage Dene in the Canadian north. Her studies of Dene ecology, kinship, and demography are important contributions to our knowledge of hunter-gatherers. Helm's best-known sole-authored books are Prophecy and Power among the Dogrib Indians (University of Nebraska Press 1994) and The People of Denendeh: Ethnohistory of the Indians of Canada's Northwest Territories (University of Iowa Press 2000). She also edited several books, including volume VI (the Subarctic) of the Handbook of North American Indians (Smithsonian Institution Press 1981). Helm was chair of Section H of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1978), held the presidencies of the American Ethnological Society (1981-1983) and the American Anthropological Association (1985-1987), and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1994). She received the Regents' Award for Faculty Excellence in 1995 and was named the F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Anthropology in 1996.

Helm was born in Twin Falls, Idaho on September 13, 1924 to parents who had been raised on Kansas farms. The family returned to Kansas in 1930, where Helm's father worked as a mechanic. After graduating from high school, Helm enrolled at the University of Kansas City, the only college she could afford. Her father's income increased in the early 1940s when he converted used machines to war production and Helm was able to transfer to the University of Chicago, where she received a Ph.B. in 1944. In 1945 Helm married her first husband, the archaeologist Richard “Scotty” MacNeish. The couple immediately went to Mexico, where MacNeish conducted archaeological fieldwork for his doctoral dissertation and Helm carried out ethnographic research for her M.A. at Chicago (1950) in a rural mestizo community in Tamaulipas. In 1949 Helm moved to Ottawa, Canada, where MacNeish held a position at the National Museum. Helm began her research along the Mackenzie River at this time. Her ethnographic field data from 1951 and 1952 became the basis of her Ph.D. thesis from Chicago (1958).

In 1960 Helm joined the department of Sociology and Anthropology at The University of Iowa. Helm was instrumental in establishing a separate department of anthropology at Iowa in 1969 and served as department chair on several occasions. She also was the chair (1993-1996) of the newly formed American Indian Native Studies Program. After her retirement in 1999, Helm retained an office in the anthropology department, which she used regularly until a few months before her death.

Helm was a straightforward, well-read woman who prized intellectual honesty and empirical data. Although she had a devastating sense of humor and always spoke her mind, Helm's sharpness was tempered with an appreciation of the frailties of humanity and a love of dogs. She liked word puzzles and contributed numerous acrostics with anthropological themes to the Anthropology Newsletter. Helm is survived by her husband Pierce King, an architect she married in 1968.

Marshall B. McKusick, Ph.D. (1930-2013)

Marshall Bassford McKusick was born January 13, 1930, in Minneapolis, MN the son of Blaine C. and Marjory J. (Kirk) McKusick. Growing up in Minneapolis after graduation from high school he attended and graduated with his BA and Master's degrees from the University of Minnesota, and his PhD from Yale University. He became a Professor of Anthropology with the University of Iowa in 1960, with his career spanning 36 years retiring in 1996. During this time from 1960 through 1975 he also served as the State Archeologist with the State of Iowa. As an accomplished author of numerous books and publications he enjoyed his travels within Iowa, the United States and abroad doing research on the history of those persons for his works. Marshall was the recipient of the Hamlin Garland Award for his book, Men of Ancient Iowa.

He was married to Charity Keoper on July 21, 1954, and later to Joye Ashton Davis on January 13, 1982. He and Joye shared many years of traveling our state, our country and the world. Marshall particularly loved his bicycle travels on RAGBRAI here in Iowa and traveling throughout Europe on his bike! After becoming interested in collecting antique Erector sets he researched and wrote the book Discovering Late Erector sets 1963-1988.

Margery Wolf, Ph.D. (1933-2017)

As a young girl Margery Jones Wolf lived on Humboldt Street with her parents before they moved to a five-acre homestead on Brush Creek Road. Margery graduated at age 16 from Santa Rosa High School and received her A.A. degree from Santa Rosa Junior College in 1952. Enrolled at San Francisco State during 1952-53, she left to marry Arthur Wolf and moved with him to Ithaca, New York where he completed his B.A. at Cornell University. When Arthur entered graduate school in Anthropology at Cornell in 1955 Margery began work as a Research Assistant to the social psychologist, William Lambert, coding ethnographic material as a part of The Six-Cultures Project. Recognizing her keen intellect and her curiosity, Lambert, anthropologists Robert J. Smith and Lauriston Sharp, and other professors mentored Margery teaching her social science research methods and treating her as a junior colleague. From 1956-57 Margery worked for Lambert and others as a Research Assistant at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. The Wolfs lived in Taiwan for two years while Arthur conducted fieldwork in Taipei and nearby rural villages before returning to Ithaca in 1960. Arthur completed his Ph.D. in 1964 and joined the Cornell faculty. Based on her experiences in Taiwan, Margery wrote her first and best known book, "The House of Lim: A Study of a Chinese Farm Family", published in 1968. That book, which is still in print, established Margery as a China scholar with a particular focus on women and the family and it became the touchstone for her unusual and extraordinarily successful academic career. Margery continued her scholarly writing after Arthur moved to the Stanford University faculty in 1968, and published "Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan" in 1972 and "Women in Chinese Society" in 1975. Margery was also a Visiting Fellow of Wolfson College at Oxford University in England in 1975. In 1980-81 Margery carried out ethnographic fieldwork sponsored by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in the People's Republic of China immediately after China reopened to Western scholars. During a subsequent fellowship she wrote her 1985 book, "Revolution Postponed: Women in Contemporary China". At Stanford Margery was also a Fellow at the Center for Research on Women and was very actively engaged in second-wave feminism. With her first marriage in process of divorce in 1984, Margery accepted a position as a Visiting Associate Professor at Duke University in North Carolina. She was hired in 1985 by the University of Iowa as a Full Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Women's Studies Program where she remained until her retirement in the spring of 2001. While in Iowa, she married Mac Marshall, another anthropologist on the Iowa faculty. In 1992 her widely taught volume, "A Thrice Told Tale: Feminism, Postmodernism, and Ethnographic Responsibility" appeared. Following her retirement Margery returned to Santa Rosa where she published two novels: "The Orchards" (set in Sonoma County) and "What the Water Buffalo Wrought" (set in Taiwan and Sonoma County). Upon learning of her demise friends and former students have described Margery as "a force of nature, larger than life, strong and whole"; as an "extraordinary scholar, activist, thinker, writer, and mentor"; as someone who "had this perfect balance of thoughtful reticence, acerbic wit, and joyful engagement"; and "besides being a brilliant adventurous scholar she was a gentle, generous soul who could be fierce when appropriate, tender when needed, and always present and fair".