Marshall Howard Saville

A man, Marshal H. Saville, in a suit, hat, and walking stick, standing in front of a building.
Marshall Howard Saville
Archives, AMNH Anthropology Division

Marshall Saville was born in Rockport, Massachusetts on June 24, 1867. He completed undergraduate studies at Columbia University and in 1888 began working at the Peabody Museum, Harvard, where he was a protégé of Frederick Putnam. While at Harvard he trained in laboratory analysis and fieldwork methodology. Saville went on expedition to the Yucatan (Mexico) in 1890 with the noted Maya archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson and also worked in Ohio (1889-1891) and Honduras (1891-1891).

In 1894 Saville was hired at the American Museum of Natural History as the first Curator of Mexican and Central American Archaeology. He stayed at the museum until 1907 and during his tenure completed field projects in Mexico near Mexico City and in the state of Oaxaca. Saville's research was conducted with the patronage of Joseph Florimond Loubat, the Duke of Loubat, who also funded the establishment of the first hall of Mexico and Central America in 1899. Saville is one of the first archaeologists to use systematic field methods. He carefully recorded the location of excavated objects and employed the relatively difficult and cumbersome technology of photography to document the work. His work in Oaxaca helped establish a foundational knowledge of Zapotec material culture.

Saville became the Duke of Loubat Professor of American Archaeology Columbia University in 1903. In 1906 with the patronage George Heye, Saville began fieldwork in Ecuador and Columbia. George Heye was an avid collector of artifacts from throughout the Americas and his collection now forms the backbone of the National Museum of the American Indian. Saville resigned from AMNH in 1907 to work for Heye and for the Brooklyn Museum, but remained an Honorary Curator and continued to teach at Columbia. Throughout his career Marshall Saville was very involved in professional societies including participating in the Council of the International Congress of the Americanists, acting as President of the American Anthropological Association from 1927-28, and helping found the Explorers Club in 1904.

1918-1932 Joins staff of the Museum of the American Indian-Heye Foundation
1906-1916 Fieldwork in South America for the Museum of the American Indian with the patronage of George Gustave Heye
1901 Curator AMNH; resigns to Honorary Curator in 1907
1897-1904 Fieldwork in Mitla, Xoxocotlán, Monte Albán (Oaxaca); Xochicalco, (Morelos) 1894: Assistant Curator, AMNH
1894 Assistant Curator, AMNH
1891-1892 Fieldwork in Copan, Honduras; obtains exhibit materials for1893 World's Fair
1890 Fieldwork in Yucatan, Mexico for the Harvard Peabody Museum
1889-1894 Studied at Harvard University under Frederic W. Putnam