BETTY J. MEGGERS (1921-2012)

The Americas Research Network (ARENET) owes its formation to a generous contribution from the Estate of Betty J. Meggers and Taraxacum, a non-profit organization established by Dr. Meggers and others to promote innovative research in South American anthropology. Along with her late husband Clifford Evans, Dr. Meggers dedicated her scholarly life to creating collaborative networks with scholars throughout Latin America.

Meggers’s fascination with archaeology began in 1939 with her volunteer work at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, leading eventually to a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University in 1952, based on her archaeological research in Brazil. In 1954, she resumed her relationship with the Smithsonian, which served as the base for her more than five decades of extensive research in South American countries. Her scholarship was honored with awards from institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, the United States, and the Organization of American States.

Her analysis of prehispanic cultural processes was wide-ranging and included the study of ceramics, of evolutionary processes, and of human responses to specific environmental conditions. Her pioneering research resulted in new interpretive methodologies, including the controversial proposal of transpacific contacts based on comparative studies of the Valdivia and Jomon (Japan) cultures. Most significantly, her work stimulated innovative collaborative projects across the Americas that included archaeological research programs and the training of scientists. These joint efforts with generations of Latin American archaeologists (some of whom she supported during periods of political persecution) bore the fruit of her extraordinary legacy and serve as the model for the work to be carried forward by the ARENET.

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