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About Dr. Robert E. Bell

July 16, 1914- January 1, 2006

When he was ten years old young Robert began hunting arrowheads with his father in the fields around Marion. After high school, he took a trip to Arkansas where he heard about the mounds near Spiro, Oklahoma. While witnessing the digging at the site, he felt there was a lot of information about ancient cultures being lost by the commercial excavations. As a result he decided to become an archaeologist to learn more about Americas prehistory, but he never forgot the important role of the amateur in archaeology.

He enrolled at Ohio State University in 1936. It was here that he met and married his wife and companion, Virginia in 1938. They transferred to the University of New Mexico where he participated in field work at Chaco Canyon, San Jon and Sandia Cave, before receiving his BA with honors in 1940. That fall he would begin graduate work at the University of Chicago. He received his MA in June 1943, before serving three years with distinction in the Army Medical Corps in Europe during World War II. He returned to the University of Chicago and received his Ph.D. in 1947. He took a teaching position with the University of Oklahoma Anthropology Department, which became his lifetime profession. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he was involved with the growth and development of the department. He was instrumental in setting up the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey in 1968. During his tenure at the university he served various positions as a curator of at the Stovall Museum (now the Sam Nobel Museum). After a 33 years, he retired in 1980, but continued to serve the University as Professor Emeritus until his death.

In 1952 he, along with a number of avocational archaeologists, founded the Oklahoma Anthropological Society to help bring professionals and amateurs together. He began the landmark four volume series on point typology, Guide to the identification of certain American Indian Projectile Points, known to collectors as the Bell/Perino type guides, in 1958. A few of his many other publications include The Harlan Site, Artifacts of Oklahoma and the Prehistory of Oklahoma. Along the way Dr. Bell was always available to all that sought his council. He was instrumental in directing many individuals to become distinguished in their fields by leading them by example. He had a broad vision of what his life's work was about and left behind a roadmap for others to follow.

His work and influence was not restricted to just Oklahoma or the United States. He did sabbatical work in New Zealand, Polynesia, Ecuador and the highlands of South America. At home, his special interest was Caddoan and Southern Plains cultures with involvement in dating methods, field techniques, lithics analyses, Early Man Studies, artifact typology and archaeological photography. In 2004 he turned 90. That year he had his book Ferdinandina published, as well as being the main collaborator on the book, The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay.

Over the course of 70 years Dr. Bell built his library, some 9,000 books, journals, papers, and magazines.

Larry & Chris with Dr. Bell

A few photos showing a portion of Dr. Bell's Library