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Edwin Hamilton Davis

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Name  Edwin Davis

Died  May 15, 1888, New York City, New York, United States
Books  Pile Foundation and Design
Education  University of Cincinnati, Kenyon College

Edwin Hamilton Davis (22 January 1811 in Ross County, Ohio – 15 May 1888 in New York City) was an American archaeologist and physician who completed pioneering investigations of the mound builders in the Mississippi Valley. Davis gathered the largest collection of prehistoric Indian collections in the United States.


Medical career

He graduated at Cincinnati Medical College in 1838. He practised in Chillicothe, Ohio until 1850, when he was called to the chair of materia medica and therapeutics in the New York Medical College. Dr. Davis was one of the editors of the American Medical Monthly.


Davis gave much attention to the subject of American antiquities and aided Charles Whittlesey in explorations of ancient mounds in 1836. Then from 1845 until 1847, assisted by Ephraim G. Squier, Davis surveyed nearly one hundred groups of aboriginal earthworks, and opened two hundred mounds at his own expense. Among Davis and Squier's most important achievements was their systematic approach to analyzing and documenting the sites they surveyed, including the Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio, which they discovered in 1846, and the mapping of the Mound City Group in Chillicothe, Ohio, which has been restored using their data and became part of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.

In 1848, the results of Davis and Squier's explorations were embodied in the book Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, which formed the first volume of the Smithsonian contributions to knowledge series. The work was a landmark in American scientific research, the study of the prehistoric Mound Builders of North America, and the early development of archaeology as a scientific discipline. It was characterized by the distinguished Swiss archaeologist, Charles Adolphe Morlot, in a paper before the American Philosophical Society in 1862, as being “as glorious a monument of American science as Bunker Hill is of American bravery.”

During the spring of 1854, Dr. Davis delivered a course of lectures on archaeology before the Lowell Institute in Boston, which were repeated in Brooklyn and New York City.

In 1858 He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.


Davis gathered the largest collection of mound relics in the United States, which originally formed part of the collection of the Blackmore Museum in Salisbury. It was later acquired by the British Museum in 1931 to form the greatest collection of ancient Native American artefacts outside the USA. A second collection of duplicates, with the results of subsequent collecting, is in the possession of the American Museum of Natural History.


Davis was interred at the Grandview Cemetery, Chillicothe in Ross County, Ohio.


Edwin Hamilton Davis Wikipedia