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Christopher Donnan (ICFA Interview)

Oral History Interview with Christopher Donnan, undertaken by Rona Razon at the Dumbarton Oaks Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives on May 29, 2015. At Dumbarton Oaks, Chris Donnan was a Senior Fellow (1977–1984) and a Visiting Scholar of Pre-Columbian Studies (spring 2009).

This interview was undertaken as part of the ICFA Oral History Initiative.

Christopher Donnan was previously interviewed by the Dumbarton Oaks Archives (DOA) on April 20, 2009.


RR: Good afternoon, the date is Friday, May 29th, 2015, my name is Rona Razon and I have the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Donnan, a former member of the Board of Senior Fellows between 1977 and 1984, a visiting scholar of Pre-Colombian studies in 2009, and one of the primary creators of the Moche Archive, which is now preserved and accessible from the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives. Fani Gargova, ICFA Byzantine Research Associate is also here with us, and she will be filming this interview. This oral history interview is being recorded for the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, located in Washington, DC. Before we begin, do I have your permission to record this interview?

CD: Yes.

RR: Ok. For the record, please state your full name.

CD: Christopher B. Donnan.

RR: Ok. In your first oral history interview in April 2009 with Joanne Pillsbury, you talked a lot about your first visit at Dumbarton Oaks and your experiences as a member of the Board of Senior Fellows, but let’s rewind a bit and let’s start with when and where were you born?

CD: I was born in Covina, California, in June of 1940.

RR: Do you have any siblings?

CD: Yes, I have an older brother and an older sister. We were – the three of us were spaced about two years apart; I’m the young – the youngest of the three.

RR: Are they in the same, or similar field as you?

CD: No. No, my father – er, my brother was a police officer and my sister was a -- an elementary school teacher.

RR: What kind of an elementary school teacher?

CD: She taught third grade. Which is the same grade that my mother taught for twenty-eight years, so she kind of inherited the baton and kept teaching. She’s retired now, too.

RR: So your mother was a teacher.

CD: She was a teacher.

RR: And your father?

CD: My father was a civil engineer, who worked with the Department of Agriculture. He was a specialist in drainage and irrigation, and was quite well known in his field.

RR: Did they have any contribution in your profession as an archaeologist?

CD: My father did in a remote way, I suppose. His mother – he grew up – well, both my parents grew up in Iowa. And my father’s mother sent me for – I guess it was Christmas or a birthday – I don’t recall what, I was seven years old. She sent three arrowheads that my father had found in Iowa, and I was transfixed by these arrowheads, and they became the dearest things I had as a, a young boy growing up. And it caused me to collect anything I could of, of Native American material. And I was known even in grammar school as the guy who was smitten by arrowheads and pipes and beads and – and that was – I wasn’t interested in collecting other things as a child, but I collected Native American things. Which I just loved. And I got interested in archaeology. My parents thought this was, was interesting, that I would fixate on that. And I started reading about it. But my parents – I mean if you can imagine a civil engineer and a schoolteacher, and then their baby boy starting to talk about wanting to be an archaeologist, they were a little concerned. And they, they were very dear; I had wonderful parents, and they would encourage me in my interest in this, but always with kind of a caveat that, you know, it’s a difficult way to make a living and so when I graduated from high school and was admitted to Berkeley, I – they wanted, or encouraged me to pursue something other than archaeology. And I in fact passed all of the preliminary exams for, for the architectural engineering school at Berkeley. I went to Berkeley and started reading the catalog, and then with great trepidation I called home and said, look, I just want to study anthropology for a semester, and then I’ll get into this career trajectory, which will provide me a good lifestyle. But I was so enamored with anthropology I never looked back. I was always an anthro major. So there was encouragement, and then there was also warnings. But it was wonderful. And when I decided I just wanted to be an anthropologist, and an archaeologist, they were very supportive. My father took me aside at one point and said, you know, unless you get a PhD in this, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to find a career. But that was the only warning. And I, I took that to heart, and I’ve always appreciated him telling his son, watch out, you know. My son wanted to study film. I took him aside and said, look, unless you really master this field, it’s – you’re going to have a difficult time. But the last thing I felt I could do with my son was to say, you know, don’t follow your passion. I had followed mine and it worked. And I think that’s important. So. But my folks were wonderful about it.

RR: What about the Native American objects that fascinated you, and eventually led you to the anthropology field and archaeology?

CD: Well, I maintained that collection with great joy for many years, but then I went off to college and on to graduate school. Meanwhile, both my older brother and older sister got married, and they had children. And the collection was in my parents’ home. And [laughs] it – when they were – had these grandchildren, who would come over and so on, I was up in Berkeley and they were living in Pasadena in Los Angeles. And this collection just disappeared. It went into the hands of grandchildren. They would give them an arrowhead or a pipe or whatever. And I have a few pieces left, but almost nothing. But by that time I was not concerned so much about the collection and more about learning about archaeology and anthropology. And it was very early in my graduate career that I had the opportunity of going to Peru. And that changed everything. That was – it was a fluke opportunity, but I just happened to be given this chance to go to Peru for seven months and work there on an archaeological project. And I went and… that was life changing. By the time I came back from Peru, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. It was wonderful. Transformative, as they say today.

RR: So you went to UC Berkeley for your undergraduate studies.

CD: Yes.

RR: And that was what year?

CD: I went there in 1958 and I graduated in 1962. Something which is no longer in vogue with a lot of undergraduate students because it usually takes them five or six years to get a B.A. But in my time, that was the expectation. You would finish in four years. And the curriculum was set up to allow you to do that. So I think all of my cohort of undergraduate students, we all graduated in four years. We were the class of ’62. So.

RR: And your major was anthropology.

CD: It was anthropology all the way through.

RR: And after that you went to pursue a Master’s degree in UCLA, or UC Berkeley?

CD: At UCLA. At that time we were encouraged to go to a different university for graduate work. I don’t know if that’s still the idea today, but in those days the idea was that you would have a faculty, we had a wonderful faculty at Berkeley, but by the time you got a Bachelor’s degree you had taken courses from most of the people who were teaching in your area, or your area of interest. So we were encouraged to do graduate work somewhere else. And I had gotten to know a professor at UCLA, Clement Meighan, and he kind of took me under his wing, I’m not altogether sure why at this point, but he saw something in me and he got my into the graduate program at UCLA. I was not a great student as an undergraduate, and I graduated with about a – just a little over a three point average, a B average, but it was enough to get me in, and then professor Meighan, apparently worked his magic and I was in, and I thought, oh this is great.

RR: Clement Meighan.

CD: Clement Meighan. It’s M-E-I-G-H-A-N.

RR: So just to go back a little bit, so when you were doing your undergraduate studies you majored in anthropology, was that general anthropology, or did you focus on a specific –

CD: No, it was general anthropology, but at the same time, because I was really intrigued with archaeology, I – they had an institution at Berkeley at the time called the Archaeological Research Facility, and it had a program where they would do archaeological projects around the Bay Area on land that was about to be built on in subdivisions or road expansions and so on. And they offered students the opportunity, if you wanted to do it, you could go out on a Saturday and excavate. And I, I loved that. So I was quite active in doing these weekend excavations, and then I heard of a, an opportunity for getting involved in an archaeological project in the Napa Valley, there in Northern California. And that project was to go over, about six weeks of the summer break, and I talked to people about this and they said, yeah, you know if you wanna do it. They also had gotten to know me from these weekend digs. So off I went. I was the only undergraduate on this project, and I loved it. I thought it was just -- we were camping beside the Napa River, we were, I don’t know, I was – feel like I was becoming a real archaeologist. And then from there on I got to know Clement Meighan who was running a project in Southern California, and the people on the dig in the Napa Valley told me -- our dig was winding up about half way through the summer – and they said you know, if you’re going back down to Los Angeles you might want to go out to UCLA and meet Clem Meighan. I didn’t know he was on the faculty. I had no idea he was chair of the department, but I called and I got an appointment to speak with Clem Meighan, who was just wonderful. And he said you know, I have this project that we’re doing down at the – in San Diego County, and if you’d like you can go down there and you know, be involved, so I did. And that all ultimately became wonderful when I was then accepted to the graduate program at UCLA. Clem Meighan took me on as the chair of my committee, he was chair of the department at the time, and he was the one who heard about this opportunity of sending someone to Peru, and he said, how would you like to go to Peru. It was just a fluke, and I said, “Don’t ask anyone else, I’ll go, I want to go.” And off I went. This is a – I think probably everybody – everybody’s life has these turning points which you are not prepared for, and don’t really plan for, and then look back and you think, that was it. That was one of the most important things. But it was wonderful.

RR: And this was – so for your Master’s you were in UCLA between 1963 and 1965, is that correct?

CD: Yes.

RR: And you focused on anthropology and archaeology, or –

CD: Well, when I went there I had a very broad interest in anthropology. And honestly I really did not know what I wanted to pursue. I thought about applied anthropology, I thought about doing something – some ethnographic work somewhere, but I really didn’t know. What I wanted to do though was to – I think in my mind I really wanted to do something in a foreign country. I didn’t really want to be based in the United States. I always had the idea of going of and – so the opportunity to go to Peru fit perfectly. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I knew that was closer to my hopes and dreams. And actually I was, I was excavating – I decided over the summer after my graduation, and I had a job in the museum at UCLA, which was the anthropology museum in the sub-basement of the building, and I heard about this little cave out in the Mojave desert, and I talked one of the people who knew about its location into going out and showing me this cave. And I decided that I would excavate it. Just a small pocket in a cliff face in the Mojave Desert. And so I went out there, and then I heard – I went out, I don’t know, several weekends on my own. And then I heard that there was a fund of up to one hundred dollars for graduate student research, and I had a lot of artifacts out of this cave that were impressive for what this cave was, and I went to Professor Meighan’s office for his office hours, and I waited outside the hallway with this tray of things and then my drawings, profiles, and plans of the cave and the layers that we’d excavated, and I was going to go in there and try to sell him on backing me for a grant of a hundred dollars, which would allow me to purchase the gasoline to get back out to the Mojave desert for a couple more weekends of excavation. And I went in with this tray, and was trying to s – I mean I am not a salesman. But I was pumped up to try to convince him that if he could back me for a hundred dollars – I mean this all sounds silly now, but in those days – this is a long while back. At any rate, I went in to talk with him about this and showed him everything. He leaned back in his chair and said, “How would you like to go to Peru?” And it was just an absolute fluke. He had just opened a letter from the Chancellor of UCLA to Clem Meighan, who was chair of the Department, saying, you know we – I have a – an interest in getting a graduate student to join this project in Peru because I’m a good friend of the Chancellor of the University of La Molina, and we have been talking about a graduate student exchange and they would like someone to assist in an excavation they’re doing. Professor Meighan had just opened this letter when I walked in. And he said, “How would you like to go to Peru?” [Laughs] and that was it. I mean if I had not gone that week, he might have offered this to somebody else. Who knows? But it was wonderful.

RR: Can you please describe that experience, when you were in Peru for seven months? What did you do and what did you discover?

CD: I, I went there to work on a site under the direction of a Professor Engel, Fréderic Engel, who had just joined the faculty at the University of La Molina. And he was running this project about fifty miles south of Lima, at a site called Chilca. And I went there with him; he was a very wealthy French gentleman. I went to the – out to the site with him, we had lunch at the site and talked and he informed me that he was going back to Lima and that he would come back out about every two weeks. And he wanted me to run the project. I didn’t really speak Spanish. I mean – Professor Meighan asked me, “well do you speak Spanish?” and I said, “well, yeah, you know…,” but on the plane down to Peru I thought how much Spanish do I really know? And I thought, I can count to ten, and I know “enchilada,” “taco,” “burrito,” [laughs] and I don’t think I could have written twenty-five words in Spanish, and there I was in charge of this project. And there was no one else; there were just the field laborers and the cook and I. And Fréderic Engel gave me this money to buy groceries each week in this little town – fishing village called Pucusana – and we lived in a barracks for hacienda workers when he had just started this project and this was a room… It was three rooms, the structure was out of fired brick, which was something, but the three rooms were dirt floor, and there was no roof, so we went out and cut cane and made a cane roof over these three rooms. I was to sleep in the front room, just inside the door, and the cook and his stove and all of the food and stuff was in the middle room, and the back room was where the workers lived. The door was a fifty-five-gallon drum, or fifty-gallon drum, that had been flattened out and the hinges were wire. And then you could shut it with a stick. The cook was there most of the day, so security was not a problem. There was no running water, there was no electricity, and I had two changes of clothes, and so I bathed in an irrigation canal right near where the pump was pumping water out and then there was this canal, and I – each day I would wash out my clothes and toss them out on the grass, and then wash, shampoo, and then I would put on the clothes that had dried from the day before. This is a sight that if you work out there for an hour, even just an hour, you’re black. I mean at the end of the day, you’re just so – there’s this real black, sooty material is all over you. So I would wash clothes every day, and I’d have a fresh change of clothes. The bathroom facilities were a cornfield. When they cut the corn it was a little difficult to know where to go. If you c – [laughs]. But these conditions – to me at the time, I had this idea that I was (claps) I was an archaeologist, this was what archaeology is, this is the way you do it, and so, as difficult as it was, and there were real difficulties, I mean the – to some extent loneliness, but I learned Spanish rather quickly, but it was kind of, I kept thinking, you know this is the realization of all my boyhood hopes and dreams. I’m out here running this project, digging, we were finding wonderful things. And when late in the season Professor Meighan and his wife came – I guess they had money from the Chancellor or somehow to come down and visit the project and assess it, they could not believe that I had survived seven months in this. And as I say, I thought this is what you do. But in forty years on the faculty at UCLA I’ve never saw any graduate student living in the field that long under remotely those kind of conditions. Which amuses me now, I mean looking back at it, but that was my sense of it at the time. This was – the site we dug was a – they call Pre-Ceramic Period site. And it dated around 23- to 2500 BC. The material was just about four inches under the surface of the ground, and then you’re into the remains of this ancient site, this village. And the houses of these people were beautifully preserved – they were made out of cane and thatch. The cane you could pick it up and it if you wanted to separate it you needed a saw. Here, fifty three hundred-year-old cane. And the burials that we found, there were people – I was just in awe of all of this. We would excavate burials; people would be wrapped in twine textiles. And when you opened the textiles, here are these bodies that are mummified, and their fingernails are in place, their eyelashes are there. I mean everything is just the way – for fifty three hundred years. I mean when I came back from Peru after seven months, all I wanted to do was go back to Peru. And be a Peruvian archaeologist. That was – I had done California archaeology and I had worked in Nevada and I had done – but I had never seen archaeology like this. And to me, I think the, the most wonderful aspect of archaeology is the human element. And when we excavated a burial in Northern California, we were lucky to find a tooth, you know. So then – and these would be two hundred-year-old burials. Here, fifty three hundred -year-old burials and some of the burials, I remember one burial was of a woman who had been put in a – they had dug a shallow trench to put her into, and then wrapped her in a shroud of twine textiles, and then started a fire in the pit, and when the embers were still burning, they put her body in there and buried her so that the burial wrappings were all burned and singed. Another burial had a – was on the floor of a house and it was a male that had a huge wooden stake driven through his torso, so he was just pinned to the floor of the house. You know, well, for me, I thought, wow, you know this is the most amazing thing to find. This is – I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world to be involved in that kind of a project, and I – from that time on I have always, almost always worked along the Peruvian coast where you have this preservation that makes field archaeology so informative and so much a personal thing. You really get the sense of the individual. Not just the culture, but specific individuals, and you wonder about them. I mean, here I’m telling you about two burials from more than fifty years ago and I can remember as though I took them out this morning. Wonderful stuff.

RR: Was that the – was that the goal of that project, to study the burial rituals or practices?

CD: It was really to study in some detail what Pre-Ceramic cultures were like along the Peruvian coast. And Professor Engel had done a survey up and down the Peruvian coast and he’s, he’s noted for this, for finding all of these Pre-Ceramic sites, and then he selected quite a number of these, ultimately, and did excavations. But, yeah we were just interested in what Pre-Ceramic culture was like, and there we could – we had it all. You open up a site, you don’t even have to dig deeply for it, and you don’t have to dig down through all of the later strata of other cultures. It was just there for us. And it was wonderful.

RR: And after coming back from that seven-month adventure, as you said you became really interested in Peruvian archaeology, and you also at that time became interested in the Moche culture, Moche art? When did you start to…

CD: That was another fluke, actually…. I’ve wonder about flukes, and I used to talk with my students about, you know, there are flukes that come along as your career evolves. The question is, how do you fluke? How do you get something to fluke? But a fluke, after I came back from Peru was that, as I expressed to Professor Meighan, I said, you know I just love Peruvian archaeology and that’s what I want to do. Well at that time, at UCLA, there was no one on the faculty who really knew much about Peruvian archaeology. There was a Mesoamerican scholar, Professor Nicholson, who every two or three years would teach a course on Peruvian archaeology, or South American archaeology. But he’d re – he’d never been to South America, and so it was kind of a – a course you could take, but no one on the faculty really specialized in it. Professor Meighan had graduated from Berkeley, that’s where he did his – I think his undergraduate work, and he did get a PhD from Berkeley. And he took me aside one day and he said “You know, if you wanna pursue Peruvian archaeology,” he said “why don’t you – we have this program within the University of California where graduate students can take courses at any campus and have the unit credit come back to their home campus toward graduation. And I really think you should go up to Berkeley for a semester and take courses with John Rowe, who is there and he is one of the great figures in Andean archaeology, and also there at Berkeley they have these wonderful collections from Peru that were excavated around the turn of the century, around 1900. And you could work with Professor Rowe and you could work with the collections or see the collections and so on and you might wanna do that.” I had taken an undergraduate course from Rowe when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley. At any rate this was setup so I would go to Berkeley for a semester and work with John Rowe. And I went there, and John Rowe – I went there in the spring, just after I – well I got back and I had a fall quarter and then the spring quarter – or fall semester and the spring quarter I went to Berkeley. And they had just – John Rowe had just run a seminar on the Moche collection that had been excavated by Max Uhle in 1899 and 1900 and it was laid out all around the periphery of the storage room of the museum by grave lot. So you had each grave lot – or the ceramics from each grave lot – there and John Rowe took me down and showed me around this and he said, – he said “well we should set up a class as an independent study for you.” And I said, “Right, yeah that’d be wonderful.” And he says, “How would you like to work with this material?” I said, “wonderful.” He said, “Great, I’ll tell them not to put these grave lots back.” This was six hundred eighty-three ceramic vessels that they were going to have to put back in the drawers. And I said, “wonderful, and what would you like me to do with this?” And he says, “why don’t you figure out how the Moche made ceramics.” I said, “wonderful.” I had never touched clay, I mean I had never made a pot, I didn’t – I never had any idea about ceramic technology. But there I was fifteen weeks with – and I was alone, I wasn’t – there wasn’t even a class, I could just go there anytime I wanted and look at this material. And by the end of those fifteen – probably by the end of the third week I was smitten with Moche. I was so fascinated with the iconography, and I found out there was a place at the student union where students could make pots and so on, and so I went down there and I started talking with people, and eventually I made several quite worthy Moche pots, one portrait vessel, and another with fineline painting on it, and Rowe was [laughs] – was very impressed with this, and said – when I turned in the paper, he says, “we have to publish this.” I said, “well…” – at any rate, that was my first publication in Moche. Called “Moche Ceramic Technology.” I think it was published in ’64. But from that I also just became so interested in the Moche. And I’ve never gotten over it, obviously. But it – I got to thinking you know if we have the preservation in Peru, along the coast where these people lived, the preservation similar to what I’d experienced with Chilca, this Pre-Ceramic site, if you could excavate Moche refuse and burials and whatnot, and you could combine it with the art – you know so many things were depicted in the art, all these activities and dress fashion and ear ornaments and headdresses and God knows what, I thought, you know if you could take the artistic record of these people and then keep excavating and find out what you could from field archaeology, and combine the two, it would be so much greater than the sum of the parts that it could be really exhilarating, I mean I thought, yeah! So then, that’s when I kind of came up with this idea of photographing Moche pottery. I went – I tried to look in books for more Moche pottery than I had laid out that semester, and I did photographs out of books, but I also thought, the world, the museums, and private collections in this world have so much of this material. But it’s – there’s not a place where you can study it. Now you have a place where you can study it here at Dumbarton Oaks.

RR: So you started photographing Moche vessels in – that are in books – depicted in books?

CD: Yeah. Yeah, and the ones that were in these grave lots that Uhle excavated. And that just became more intense as the years went on. You know, where could I go to access more Moche art? And, it was wonderful.

RR: So how did you figure out at that time, you know, that was your first time to work with Moche ceramics, how did you figure out how the Moche made ceramics?

CD: Well there – here’s another fluke! Ok, Max Uhle excavated these grave lots in 1899 and 1900. And he sent them by ship back to Phoebe Apperson Hearst, William Randolph Hearst’s mother, who was really the fairy godmother of the University of California. She built the women’s gym at Berkeley, and she was a very cultured woman from New England, and very, very wealthy. Her husband was not that cultured but he’d made a fortune in mining, and when he passed away, she was left with this great fortune and she built a museum at the University of California. At the time the museum was actually in San Francisco, where the medical school is now. It wasn’t on the Berkeley campus; the original museum was there, that’s where Ishi lived when Kroeber and Ishi, Ishi the last American Indian, and so on… At any rate, this collection went back to San Francisco and was unpacked in the museum in San Francisco. This is 1900. Much of it was on display in 1906 when the earthquake hit San Francisco, and a lot of it that consisted of whole pots when Uhle excavated the graves and when the collection came to San Francisco, these pots were broken in the 1906 earthquake, and in fact, today there are still some pots that haven’t been put together. But by sheer luck, I had a huge collection of Moche ceramics which was broken. With many of the pieces, not by any means all; probably less than half. But they were broken, so I could look inside of them. And the clues from the inside were what made it possible to understand how these pots were made. Because the Moche were very careful to smooth the exterior of their pots, to take away any flange or any kind of a bump, they, they made these things just beautiful. But if you had the pieces and you could look at the interior, there you could see the traces of two-piece molds that were used to make the chambers, and there were ways that the Moche made the stirrup spouts, where they made them over wooden rods – I think they were wood, because they were tapered, and I could measure the lower part of the spout on the inside and the upper part of the spout on the inside and see that it was made over some – something was tapered. Also, on a stirrup spout bottle, a Moche stirrup spout bottle, once they bent the stirrup spout and got it onto the chamber, they then slit the shoulders of the stirrup spout and opened them up and ran a little reaming device – what I suspect was probably a stick with some cotton or something tied on the end, and they would ream out where the spout joins the chamber, and then they would carefully move that back together and smooth all traces of it from the exterior. But when you took a penlight battery as I did – a penlight flashlight, which I had, I could shine it up in the spout, I could see this scar, and the scar was so consistent in the stirrup spout. So there were all these details. If this had come to San Francisco in 1907 rather than before the 1906 earthquake, I – I don’t know how much I could have really said about it. But I just – I was intense. [Laughs] I’ve always been rather intense because I love this field. That’s how your passion carries you. And if you have a little luck like that, you move along.

RR: So when and how did you transition from all of those really great experiences that you experienced during your Master’s degree to your doctorate degree?

CD: Well, when I came back from Berkeley, John Rowe appears to have seen something in me that was worth supporting. My professor at UCLA, Clement Meighan, said, “you know, why don’t you go back up to Berkeley and talk with John Rowe and see if he will serve on your committee here at UCLA. And – because we don’t have any Andeanists, but we need someone on your committee to kind of give it some weight who is an Andean archaeologist, Andean scholar. So I – I needed to go back up to Berkeley to turn in this – the final draft of this paper, to John Rowe, and I with some trepidation asked him, I told him, “you know Professor Meighan wanted me to ask you if you would consider serving on my committee at UCLA.” And his response was, “why don’t you just come to Berkeley? Rather than my flying down there you could come up here and we have the collections that we – you know I could…“ So I went back to UCLA and I talked with Professor Meighan and he said, “what did John Rowe say?” And I said, well he said, “why don’t you come up here and get your PhD here rather than…” And Professor Meighan kind of chuckled and says, “Do it! Go there!” In fact, I had told John Rowe, I said you know I’m not sure that I could do that because Professor Meighan has really been supportive of me and I, I would feel a little guilty kind of leaving UCLA. At any rate, Meighan’s attitude was, go, and I remember he used the phrase, he said, “The shoot is greased for you getting a PhD here at UCLA. No problem.” But he said, “If you could get a PhD at Berkeley, with John Rowe, we’re going to need an Andean scholar on our faculty. And we could hire you back.” UCLA had a rule that they couldn’t hire – they weren’t going to hire any of their own graduate students. And I thought that was, space age. I mean it was un – and I really didn’t think there was any – that was ever going to happen. At any rate, I went back up to Berkeley, and that’s how that happened. It was just a, a transition. And then I got my PhD, and UCLA offered me a job, and I went back to UCLA. So from the time I went to Berkeley as an undergraduate in 1958 until I got my PhD in, was it ’68, I never – and then I went to UCLA so I’ve never left the University of California in my life. You know I’ve always been within it. But it was – it worked beautifully.

RR: When did you start your doctorate in Berkeley?

CD: In 1965, I believe. Yeah.

RR: And so John Rowe was your advisor?

CD: He was my advisor.

RR: Was he also – what was he working on at that time?

CD: He was very interested in chronology for the south coast of Peru. Which he was developing with the idea that we needed in Peru, in the Andean area, a master sequence. And the way to have a master sequence was to pick one area, and then work it out really fine-tuned. And he had a number of graduate students who had worked with him on various parts of this, particularly the Nasca sequence, which is relatively contemporary with Moche, and then he had people working on other pieces. And he was very interested in getting me to work on the south coast, but I was in love with Moche. And he’d never been to the north coast, and he kind of understood this but kind of – said well alright, you know we’ll go up there and see what you think you can do and – but you know you can always work on the south coast. But I did my dissertation on Moche.

RR: Tell me about your dissertation. What was it about?

CD: It was – it was titled The Moche Occupation of the Santa Valley, Peru. And it was supported by a Fulbright grant. I had realized in researching collections in various parts of Europe, England, and the United States that a number of Moche pots had come out of the Santa Valley, largely shipped out of the Port of Chimbote, which is just south of the Santa Valley. And I – so I thought well there must be a lot of Moche occupation there, but no one had ever done any research on the Santa Valley, particularly the Moche occupation. And so I picked that valley thinking, well I’ll go there and I’ll do this study, which was originally planned and even proposed to the Fulbright commission as being a study I would do of the Santa Valley from man’s first arrival in the valley, at the end of the Pleistocene, through the arrival of the Spanish [laughs]. And I had done – I went up there one summer and did this research and then did the proposal and got the money and went back down, and I spent the first three months – June to almost September – everywhere I looked in the valley there were sites, if you picked up the pottery from one site you could see a hundred other sites and you would go to those – I mean there were so many sites, so many time periods and so much – and I was just sick, I thought, I’m a failure, I can’t possibly do this. I – there’s no way I can systematically study human occupation over thousands of years in this valley. And I knew John Rowe, who had been down there that summer, was about to leave and go back to Berkeley to teach, and I thought – anyway, I got on an overnight bus to Lima and I went to where I – where John was staying, and he was having breakfast and I walked in and oh, he was delighted to see me, “how’s it going?” and I – I said, you know I don’t even know how to tell you this, but I can’t do that. I can’t do what I was supposed to be doing. There’s too many sites! I’m swamped. I’ve got boxes of sherds from every time period and there are thousands of sites in the valley, and I’m thinking to kind of restrict that to just the Moche occupation. And I thought he was – you know I thought he – well, he’d really give me the what for. I was prepared for this, but I was also prepared to argue that this was the only way out for me, I had to limit this. And that’s what I was really interested in anyway. But he didn’t – he leaned back and kind of chuckled and he says, “You know I was wondering how long it would take you to figure that out.” And I thought, “You devil! You know, here I have been sick with worry about not being able to make do on what I was committed to,” but he, he totally agreed, he says, “Absolutely. Just look – just – if it’s not a Moche site, forget about it, just keep walking. Just keep, you know? And only focus on the Moche.” And so that was the way that evolved. But it’s worth getting on a midnight bus sometime. He was great.

RR: Did you work with anyone during that period?

CD: With?

RR: Another student, another –

CD: No, I was completely alone, and I was there for twelve months and then the Fulbright commission announced, I guess about the tenth month I was down there, that if anyone wanted to stay on, they had some money and you could stay for as much as three more months. So I stayed three more months. And so I was down there fifteen months, I was living in Chimbote, which at that time was a very unfortunate community because of the fish meal boom and the smell of fish meal being roasted and… The Peace Corps, which had gotten underway, had sent a big contingent of Peace Corps volunteers to Chimbote because it was such a – such chaos in Chimbote. There was one paved street, there were 160,000 people, and these Peace Corps volunteers were down there to develop the community. And they were just completely overwhelmed by the squalor and all that. But they were a very nice group of people. And they allowed me to get mail in the Peace Corps office in Chimbote and I became good friends with quite a number of them. It was wonderful. So I was alone, but I really wasn’t. I had that group, which was wonderful, but I was alone, I remember, to site survey the Santa Valley, I had a little World War II jeep. And I had bought it from John Rowe. He wanted to sell it, and I thought, this is what I’ll need to do this work. And I took the passenger side seat in the front out, I just unbolted it, I took the little, there’s a little jump seat in the back of a World War II jeep, this was cloth-top, cloth doors, four wheel drive. And this was enough room so that I could put a child’s mattress across the floor boards of this diagonally and I could get in there and close the doors, and then I had – it was like having a tent, and I could [laughs], I could pack enough food and water that so I could go off, up into the Santa Valley, the most remote parts of it, and I could live for 10 days or two weeks at a time. This was a bizarre experience because I was completely alone. I don’t know if you’ve ever been alone for more than forty-eight hours without anyone around, but you – it has a strange affect on your psyche. I mean I would – after about seven days of this I’d wake up in the morning and I’d say, “well you’d better get to work.” And then I’d say, “don’t talk to yourself!” “Ok.” “Well you can talk with yourself if you want.” “Yeah, that would be nice.” I mean you’re stuck – I’m thinking, “am I losing it?” But, and then during the day I would think, is there somebody around that rock? I think, I think there’s somebody up there. But your mind starts to do very interesting things. I always thought it was rather amusing, what would happen. But I could, I could park this thing in the most remote area. I’d bathe in the river, in the Santa River, and I had two candles that I’d put on the – in a World War II Jeep there – the fender wells are flat on the inside, and they’re little tool boxes. And I’d put these two candles there, and I read every evening, I read, I think all of Hemingway, which was wonderful. I also read – because they – there were a lot of books that the Peace Corps people had in what they called book lockers, if you were a Peace Corps volunteer in that time, publishing houses would donate books, and they would create a book locker for each volunteer. And I finally ended up with all of Hemingway. I also ended up with all of the James Bond books, but I would, I would read in the evening, and I had a bottle of cherry brandy. Why these – I mean… But this --– I was happy as I’ve ever been, I mean it was just, it was really fulfilling. And then I’d get up and take off again and the next day, wander, and then get back to the jeep, drive further up valley, and it was, it was a great experience. And I like the dissertation. I sometimes will have occasion to look at something, look up something that’s in it and I think, yeah, that was, that was worthy. Nobody, for example, at that time knew anything – no one had ever published what a Moche cooking olla looked like. Ever! You know? Nobody ever knew what their basketry was like, or their textiles. And I, I excavated quite a number of sites, and found hundreds of textile fragments and did the first study of textiles. I did an inventory of all of the plant remains in Moche refuse. That had never been done. I mean so in many respects – I mean I was just interested in every aspect, all the shellfish that they were consuming, all of the fish bones. And I had this stuff analyzed and identified, and I, I was just doing it because I was interested, but I look back on it and I think, yeah, that – if you want to find the first illustration of Moche cooking ollas or stone tools, or textiles, that’s – but that was what Moche research was in – it was 1965, ’66. There wasn’t – [laughs] there were three Moche scholars in the world. Four, actually. Betty Benson was a known Moche scholar, Gerdt Kutscher, and Rafael Larco. And that was it. Today there are hundreds of Moche scholars. It’s been a real growth industry. I mean, the fluorescence, there are conferences on Moche, there are volumes published on Moche, there are – you know it’s, it’s a – but in those days… Gerdt Kutscher and Rafael Larco had pretty much finished publishing anything; in fact I think they had both stopped publishing. Betty Benson was still very productive and always is, so... But it was, it was another world for Moche.

RR: Did you meet those – did you meet them at that time or were you… [unintelligible]?

CD: I met – I knew Betty Benson because she was actually here at Dumbarton Oaks and very much a main figure in the field and I had the privilege of meeting her early on. And I met Rafael Larco only a couple of times, met with him before he, he passed away. I was going to meet Gerdt Kutscher in the sum – first summer when I was photographing Moche material in Europe. And I went to the Ibero-American Institute in Berlin, knowing I would be able to meet him. That year the International Congress of Americanists was I think in Vancouver, and I had corresponded with Gerdt Kutscher, and he was not going to go to the conference, so I thought, well when I get in Berlin, I didn’t know when I would get there, but I was going to look him up. And I went there, and they said, “Oh, he’s at the International Congress of Americanists.” And I thought, but I – he wasn’t going to go. The day that I was in Berlin asking for him at the Ibero-American Institute, he had come down from Vancouver and was in the Moche Archive at UCLA. There’s another fluke. And you just think, how odd. And Donna McClelland was there, she met him, but I never met him and he passed away the following year. So, to my great regret I never met Gerdt Kutscher.

RR: So how was the process of you finishing your dissertation and then after that you became a faculty member at UCLA?

CD: I was still in – living in Chimbote, working in the Santa Valley when I – and I had – hadn’t even talked with anyone at UCLA about a job, but I got this letter inviting me to join the faculty. And this is without a job talk, if you can imagine – I mean today you have these searches and it’s quite a protracted process for appointments to be made by departments. But I don’t know if they just knew me, as – because I had done my M.A. at UCLA, or I – it may have been Professor Meighan, I don’t know, but I – I got this job offer. And at the same time, almost the same week, I got a notice from Berkeley that I had been awarded what they called an Advanced Graduate Fellowship. And I, I thought about this. Here I was, I had all this data, but I – and I had written certain sections of my dissertation while I was still in Peru, but I had a lot of things I – I hadn’t analyzed the textiles, by that time I hadn’t really drawn all of the ceramics or put ‘em in ink, you know and do all of that. And I also thought I was far too young to be a professor and I didn’t know enough, and I didn’t, I thought, you know this – I think I’ll just go back to Berkeley and finish my dissertation. So I did, and I, I thanked them very much for the job offer and so on, but I said I was going to finish the dissertation. So I went back to Berkeley, and I had this Advanced Graduate Fellowship, which paid 266 dollars a month, and lived in a garage, I had a motorcycle and I worked on my dissertation. That was – and I had those nine months and I cranked it out, I finished it, filed it, got my PhD. Meanwhile, UCLA contacted me again and they said, you know we – we’ve kind of held this position open for you, would you come down and talk with us about it. And so I, I did. The only thing I knew when I was a graduate student was that I was never going to go back to UC – to Los Angeles to live [laughs], but they gave me I car so I could drive around UCLA, [inaudible] I hadn’t really explored this a lot when I was doing graduate work there, and I found this little canyon next to UCLA, which was kind of like Berkeley.

RR: So you were invited back to UCLA, and they informed you that they had kept this position for you.

CD: Yeah.

RR: Can you tell me more about that process?

CD: Well, the department was apparently enthused about appointing me onto the faculty. Here's another fluke. The chair, who at that time was a fellow by the name of Professor Goldschmidt, apparently had gone to the Chancellor, and was talking about, I don't know, departmental politics or whatever. And happened to mention that they were trying to recruit me to join the faculty, that I was this young man at Berkeley. And the Chancellor was the same fellow who had put up this money for a student to go to Chilca. I don't think he remembered me, but this was Franklin Murphy. Franklin Murphy was an amazing man and an extraordinary chancellor. He really – most people think of UCLA as having been really developed by Franklin Murphy. And he had a, a characteristic where he would write letters to people. Thank you notes, or congratulations of this or whatever. I have several of them that I've cherished, but one of the ones, he wrote me – here I'm a graduate student at Berkeley, and here's this letter in my mailbox, and I open it up, and it is a long letter from Franklin Murphy, saying that he understood from Professor Goldschmidt that they're trying to recruit me. And that he wanted me to know that he was very, very interested in having someone on the faculty in Andean archaeology, and that he had an idea that he would – that UCLA would ultimately have a museum, which he was beginning to develop at that time as a Chancellor, as a Chancellor, and that this would become a significant museum at some point in the future, and it had already had a few pieces of Andean material, but he would like to see that expanded. I mean it was a wonderful letter, it was beautifully written. And I didn't know what to make of this, so I took it to John Rowe. And I said, "You know, I just received this letter from Franklin Murphy, the Chancellor at UCLA. What do you make of this?" And John read it, and he looked at me and he said, "Go to UCLA! I mean... Nobody gets a letter from a –" And I thought, "Yeah, well, I will." And I did. I don't know how important the letter ultimately was because I think the opportunity of being back at UCLA and – I found this little canyon where I could live tranquilly and have a five-minute commute. And I didn't want to get out into the big maw of Los Angeles. But this seemed to suit me, so I took the job. And it was, it was wonderful; it was a great choice for me, a wonderful opportunity.

RR: What was your position title, then?

CD: I was an assistant professor. Step one. And I think I was paid 8,700 a year. That wa -- [laughs]. But dollars were different then.

RR: So you mentioned earlier that while you were doing your Master’s degree you have started to photograph Moche vessels in -- that are depicted in books.

CD: Yeah.

RR: So in that -- the Max Uhle collection and when you were doing your doctorate, you were also photographing Moche vessels, is that correct?

CD: Yeah, yeah, wherever I could get the chance to do it.

RR: And so, so tell me about your -- you've been talking a lot about anthropology, archaeology, and also you mentioned you worked with a lot of museum collections, and you have this interest in photography as well. How did all of these things contributed to the beginning of the Moche Archive as we know it now?

CD: It was all very direct. It --– I went wherever the – wherever Moche art was. I always seemed to be sleuthing down the elusive Moche pot, as I used to refer to it. And I would – if I heard of a collection someplace I would make every effort to get there. I wasn't a trained photographer. And I had no real interest in professional photography, but I was interested in getting the best quality photographs I could of Moche art so I could study it in – in a large sample of it. And I – so I more or less taught myself how to take the photographs I needed. Which weren't all the best, but they did the job.

RR: And you mainly photographed Moche vessels, or did you photograph other objects as well?

CD: Mostly Moche vessels, the ceramic vessels. Some metal objects, some bone objects, but overwhelmingly ceramics.

RR: So when you were doing your Master’s and your Doctorate, obviously, you were doing this work for your degree, right, for your studies?

CD: Not, not the archive, though. That was just kind of a something that I thought had a lot of promise, but it wasn't related to my study of the Moche occupation of the Santa Valley. That was altogether different. But I had this idea, then. And when I joined the faculty at UCLA, I think I had around thirteen hundred photographs. That was the archive. And I thought I would work on it – this idea – by that time I knew how rich the information was that was available through field archaeology, because I had done all this work in the Santa Valley, and I just – I mean, that I knew would work, even if I couldn't ever do the archive. But I thought I could, I thought I could get a huge sample of Moche art photographed and systematically catalogued. So that I could combine these two sources of information. And... But as happens in your youth, the optimism I thought, when I joined the faculty with these thirteen hundred  photographs, roughly, I would add to this, and I would work on Moche iconography, based on my archive, and that within a year – I was thinking a year at the time, but two years on the outside, I would crack Moche iconography, and I remember, in my mind, the term "cracking" Moche iconography, this is – we're fifty years later, and we are just on the threshold of – I mean we've, we're really beginning to understand it, largely because there are so many good scholars that are working on it, and we do have the archive, which has been a tremendous insight to people in terms of the things that Donna and I published, my students published, and so on. So we're now on the threshold, looking in, but we've not cracked it. And... But it – I never got discouraged because we weren't cracking it as quickly as I thought, it was just very seductive to me, very intriguing that every time we cracked any piece of it, there were two or three more that I thought, we can put these into the puzzle, exactly where they fit. And that just went on year after year.

RR: But the start of the Moche Archive, as we know it now, we're talking about the 1970s? Is that right?

CD: Yeah, I actually – when I joined the faculty, in '68, and then… I don't recall whether it was '69 or '70, I think it was 1970, I – again through Franklin Murphy, kind of my patrón, I was able to secure funding through the Kress Foundation – he was on the board – to go to Europe and photograph the major museum collections and private collections in Europe. So I bought a Volkswagen camper, in Westwood there by UCLA, which I was to pick up at the factory in Westphalia in Germany, and I flew to Europe, went to this factory, got the van, and then spent three months just driving all over Europe from Oslo, Norway, to Athens, Greece, every country. And – including all of England, up into Scotland, and just photographed. And came back with, oh, I don't know how many rolls of film I shot that summer, but that was the most – by far – the most intense photographic session of the whole development of the archive. And it was the following year – the following academic year, when I was teaching night school, and Don and Donna McClelland enrolled in this class. And then Donna wanted to know if there was any way to volun – she could volunteer, and I said, "you know I really don't have anything that would be of much interest to a volunteer," and she said, "well, isn't there something?" And I said, "Well honestly I'm just cutting up sheets of contact prints of Moche ceramic objects that I've photographed in Europe. And it's a mindless chore. I'm working on it, but..." "Oh," she says, "I'll do that, I'll do that." And I said, "well, if, if you want to, let's do it on the premise that you come and you start to do it, and whenever you're sick of it, just tell me, 'you know, I'm out, I can’t – I'm not interested in this.'" So she started volunteering with me, and that was another fluke. I mean she was the best. She never lost her love and enthusiasm for it, she just thought it was absolutely – she was as smitten as I was several years before in looking at Moche material. I don't think she'd ever seen much Moche material. I guess Don and Donna had purchased a pot or two from a gallery in New York, but they didn't know much about Moche. And that worked out really well.

RR: Were you by yourself when you traveled all over Europe for this project?

CD: Yeah, yeah. I met a friend in Sweden, and I met another friend, who came over to Barcelona, and we traveled together for a while, but by and large I was alone. Almost all the time. But it was, you know, I wasn't as alone as I was in the Santa Valley doing site survey. It was wonderful.

RR: And how did you approach the museums?

CD: I'd written them, all the museums --

RR: Beforehand?

CD: Yeah, beforehand. So they, they were expecting me. I don't think they understood exactly what I wanted to do. And perhaps if I'd told them they would have been less receptive, but they were wonderful. And I would be, I remember being at the – parking the van and being at the front door of the museum when it opened, with my little satchel that had camera equipment, my tripod and film and camera, and backdrops. And I would always have an apple, so that I could work from the time they opened the door and gave me access to the collection until they threw me out at the end of the day. And I, I didn't have to stop for lunch; I would just eat this apple. I mean I was – [laughs] I was intense, but you know, you're in – well both of you – intensity is immensely pleasurable in life. I mean to be just, almost fanatic about what you want to do, what you're doing, makes your blood run hot, rather than kind of, well, you know, maybe I'll go out for coffee, and maybe I'll do this. I ran with the wind. And it worked.

RR: Was there a formal agreement between you and the museums, for instance, did you give them copies of your photographs afterwards?

CD: No, that, there wasn't a requirement. No one ever asked for that in those days. And I don't remember – it may have happened on occasion that I signed some sort of agreement about the use of the photographs or something, but I don't remember doing that. If I did, I never got a copy of whatever the form was, I just – but that was another world. Today, nobody could [laughs] I mean, I remember in Berlin, day after day I'd go in there, with my satchel, and they would say, "well, you know, is there anything we can help you with?" "No, I'm just fine, thanks so much, this is wonderful." And they'd say, "Well, we'll come around from time to time, so if there's something you need, just let us know." But their attitude was, let us help you. And at the end of the day I would pack up my stuff, nobody ever looked in the suitcase. I could have carried out three or four Moche pots a day, and they would never know until I was in Spain that they – [laughs] but today, you just cannot. You couldn't possibly recreate the archive. Which is sad, but it's understandable, I mean there's a lot of security problems. But there weren't in those days. Was splendid.

RR: What kind of camera and film did you use at that time? You were doing black and white, is that right?

RR: Yeah, exclusively black and white. I may have had a couple of rolls of slide film, but it was so expensive to buy and develop that I shot in black and white. I didn't use any color print film. And the film – as I recall that I used in the early years was a Kodachrome TRI-X, and the TRI-X had good resolution, but it was also very fast. So I could shoot under a lot of compromised lighting conditions were I didn't really have very bright light, but TRI-X would capture it for me. And the camera I used, I think I started out -- I think I had a Nikon camera from the beginning. And then I, I wore out several cameras, I mean they just finally – like an old car, because I was shooting thousands of photographs. And I ended up with a camera that I thought was the best ever, and it was the Nikon – what's the FX. A very light camera, had a fifty-five-millimeter lens, which was excellent. I didn't start with that kind of equipment, but the last probably eight years, that's what I had. In fact I had two of those cameras. One loaded with slide film and one with black and white. And then in the last, maybe, year? One year of photographing I actually had a digital camera. Which I used in photographing portraits. When I was going back through and trying to get the images I needed for the portrait book. But that came on – I unfortunately, I would – I wish I had fluked, and about the time I was starting the Moche archive, digital cameras came in, but they came in forty years too late. Imagine if you had the archive, and you could have it all in digital images. One of the things that you are challenged by, as we always were, is where do you put the image of a pot, in what category, but you can only put it in one. You know with digital images, we could've just put it in any number of categories, and then every time you look up the category, everything is there. We came to grips with that as best we could with our cross-reference file. Where if you're looking for bats, it's category 36, but also there are bats in all these other categories. We didn't have that – we could never have reproduced our images in that quantity so that we could do that.

RR: Did you take any notes as you photographed each object in the museum?

CD: Yeah, yeah, I did, particularly in the early years. All of the trip to Europe that summer I took notes, I have a – the catalog, or the – yeah, the catalog number, and then it would – I’d put SS4, which is stirrup spout phase four, and maybe a quick two or three words of what it is, a monkey, a portrait head, or whatever. And even the height. And then I realized later on that height is, was just not worth it. I mean it took so long to measure the height and record the height, and when all of them are between this and this so the height wasn't going to be a significant variable in Moche iconographic research. If something was oversized I might record the height, but I just stopped doing that. I also stopped doing the phase, because I could tell the phase from the images. And the catalog number was worth it, I suppose, I have volumes of three ring binders of catalog numbers, but I've never published a catalog number, so.

RR: How are the objects in those museums that you went to, how were they organized? And did you follow that when you organized your archive.

CD: Oh, that didn't really influence the way I organized mine. Many of them probably have some of the same categories, like in Berlin, where there's about two thousand Moche pots, there's a whole series of shelves that just have portraits. And then there's a bunch of them that are architecture, and there's a bunch of them that are reed boats, or monkeys, or something. But I wasn't really concerned at all about that. I would just go shelf-by-shelf and it didn't, it didn't matter. The categories came from our sorting the images themselves. And as I've explained before, this was just done with what seemed to be reasonable categories for retrieval. If you wanted to study llamas, it was nice to have a category of llamas, or deer, or deer hunting. And it was that kind of thing. And as I probably mentioned before, I've always wished I knew what the Moche would have had as their categories. That would have – Donna and I talked about that a lot. And we were always intrigued with – what would the Moche – would they have separated this out from that? And I've always thought if – I would give anything to be able to just sit down with a Moche, a high status Moche that knew about iconography and the ceremonies and so on. And just ask them, you know just say, we think this is this, is that right? And they would know, you know, it would be so easy for them, and easy for us. But that of course is impossible.

RR: And so you were in Europe for a year?

CD: No, I was there for three months.

RR: Oh, for three months. Ok.

CD: For three months. Was a busy summer.

RR: And you came back to UCLA, and you started teaching a night class, as you mentioned.

CD: Yeah, actually I did that starting right when I joined the faculty. I was asked by UCLA Extension if I would teach a night school class. And I had some money that I'd kept track of that I thought I owed my parents, and I wanted to pay that back. And I was not earning much money, 8,700 a year, so I – and I had nothing to do in the evenings, so I thought well, I'll just teach this same class at night that I am teaching during the day. And that was the – but I started that as soon as I joined the faculty. I didn't teach much – I only taught like one night school class per semester, let's say, or even one per year. But I, I would teach the Andean class. And that's where I met Don and Donna.

RR: Now tell me – let's go back to that again – tell me about that time when you met Donna and Don McClelland in your night class, and – well first, what were you teaching?

CD: I was teaching a – this class – I call it the Andean class, but it's title is, Ancient Civilizations of Andean South America. That was the title of the class. And it was a pretty good-sized enrollment, probably fifty or sixty people taking it at night school. And I enjoyed teaching it because I loved the subject, and they – on the midterm, I did all of the correcting of the exams, grading the exams and so on. These two exams were just head and shoulders about – above anybody, even who I was teaching in regular day session. And it was Don McClelland and Donna McClelland, and I thought, so I thought, I'm going to find out who these people are in this class, and so when I passed – turned back the midterm exam, I made note, they were sitting together, obviously, and I thought, oh, that's them, ok. And then the final was the same way. And then after the – about the time of the final, Donna wanted to know if she could volunteer. So. And, you've met them, well you didn't meet Donna, but you've met Don. Donna was just like Don. I mean they were really excellent people. I still am very close to Don, and Karen now, she's really wonderful. But Don and Donna were really, really great.

RR: In your collaboration with, with the McClellands, specifically starting with Donna, she started to volunteer with you and started helping you with the 35 millimeter contact prints --

CD: Yeah.

RR: You said you both started to cut that up and that is really where the categories developed. Is that right?

CD: Yeah, well I already had quite a number of these figured out, because I had cut up my thirteen hundred photographs, and I had started dividing them into categories. And by the time Donna actually started cutting these things up with me, well over half of the categories probably by that time had been established. They were given a number and a name.

RR: And we're talking about the early 1970s here?

CD: Yeah, this would’ve been, I don't know, I don’t remember which year I even went to Europe. I probably should look that up, but it was just after that so this would have been either '71 or '72 I would guess.

RR: What was the methodology of developing the categories?

CD: Just sorting these things – we cut the contact prints and glued, or put scotch tape across the back, the way they are here. Once you had that, you had all the photographs of any one pot, or one object, and then you could sort those. And those were complete coverage. So, we would just have a whole stack of these, after a couple of hours of cutting and taping, and then you just sort 'em, and if there was something that came up that wasn't one of your previous categories, and you thought, well, this could make a pretty good category, you kind of put it to one side, and then if you found more of those, that kind of enhanced the reality of that category. But it was just sorting, you know? Portraits were – was number one, for some reason, I just – and I didn’t mean to number these in any preferential way, or significance, ranking them in – they were just – but I thought, give them a name and a number. And that’s the way we did it. But they were just developed purely on the basis of finding something that didn’t fit in to any other category that we had, so it became another category. If we found more things like that, we have a category called “miscellaneous,” and we had that fairly early on, but then we’d find – you know there are so many things – depictions of bats in this miscellaneous – let’s just make it a category. So we would. And sometimes we would find the categories were getting so large that we’d just – you know… like deer, and then we decided lets make it – let’s divide that into natural deer and anthropomorphized deer. And then we broke out from natural deer – deer hunting. So we had three categories when in fact we began with just one. That’s the way it went.

RR: How did you determine which category should be the primary category?

CD: Just on the frequency of depiction and how similar these depictions were. If you had something that was being portrayed in several different ways, then we would tend to, to split that. In a way that we could have two categories or three categories that worked. But – it was all done – I remember we were talking the last time – we had no idea that we were doing something – we knew we were, we were doing something that that was going to produce remarkably valuable insights about the Moche. That we knew. But we didn’t know how remarkable they were going to be. And as I said, I thought we’d crack this – I thought I’d crack it in a year, and when I met Donna, I thought well we’ll work for a couple years and then we’ll probably keep this going on the side but she’ll drift off into something else and I’m going to be, maybe working in Chile or something. I – we never really felt historic. We never thought we were doing anything historic. And yet now I look back and I think, we, we really did something that was so worthy, and having it here at Dumbarton Oaks makes it even more worthy because now it’s forever. It’s in perpetuity. But in doing this you have no idea how – I mean it was no more than the way you bake a pie or something. I mean we weren’t thinking, well, we gotta get exactly this recipe, or we’re really deliberately going to be… it was just – and I think that was the fun of it too, because we weren’t tied to any research instructions that we had to follow, we just – Donna would come up with an idea, I’d say, yeah, that sounds good, lets do that. Whether it was creating a new category or these little sleeves that we’d put the film into, or… and then I’d come up with an idea, she’d – she was always receptive to anything I wanted to do with it, but it was collaborative and very very friendly, very – I don’t remember a time I’ve ever – thinking, God you know, I wish I was just doing this by myself, and I wish Donna wasn’t… – and I – she may have thought, I wish I was doing this by myself and Chris wasn’t involved, but I don’t – there wasn’t that kind of a feeling. You know how, sometimes things just work out. The chemistry. And…

RR: And this was only between the two of you, or were you also communicating with other scholars?

CD: We – I had students, and they were to some extent involved but not – one student that was very much involved was Alana Cordy-Collins. She was a student of mine from the time she was an undergraduate, and then she got an M.A. She wrote her M.A. about reed boat representations in Moche because I had a – we had a big corpus of that at that time and that seemed to be a good M.A. topic and she did a great M.A. And then she got her PhD. She didn’t work on Moche material for her dissertation, but she was always around the archive. And she and Donna became very close friends, which was wonderful. They were very good friends.

RR: Are there any categories that you didn’t create back then and – but now you think that you should have created it?

CD: No. Actually, when we reorganized everything before sending it back here, we re-did the sheets that all of the contact prints are on, and we also re-did the organization of the slides, and put them on archival sheets, just to get them back here in the best condition that we could. And in the process of that, I broke out a category, because I had been doing a lot of study of it. It’s one of the later numbers, but it isn’t the latest, it was just a blank number at the time, and it was specific individuals, I think we titled it. And I gathered up – I had a – quite a number of individuals that we had identified in doing the portrait book. But there were a number of other ones that I didn’t include in the portrait book, but I knew we had multiple representations of what had to be this individual, that individual and so on. And that – so that was crafted a month before we sent everything to Dumbarton Oaks. And it was crafted because I thought, maybe someday someone will pick up the ball with the identification of specific individuals, the way I had done with the portrait book, and here they’ll have a boost, they could really go forward with this, with one or another of these, these individuals. So that was one that never existed when Donna was alive, even. That was another thing that we did just before we sent this back here. At one time we were interested in what we called the bangle earring people. These are people that wear a distinctive ear ornament of a wire loop, and it supports a disk. Donna renamed this – I called it the bangle earring people, I don’t know why – but Donna really wanted to change that, and she – she did. And it was then termed the pendant disk people. And they’re a very distinct category. And at one time we had divided the archive, we pulled everything into the pendant disk people as kind of a category, but it didn’t really work as a category very well because these people appear in coca chewing, and they appear in combat, they appear in deer hunting, and they appear – and I think Donna was – Don and Donna at one time were thinking that they could craft an article or some publication about the pendant disk people, but the more they struggled with this, and we had long conversations about it, the more it just didn’t – it didn’t – it just unraveled at the edges, and so it was decided, Don and Karen were working with Marydee and I, getting this ready to send back to Dumbarton Oaks, and we decided that we would just cannibalize the pendant disk people and put them back into the categories of warriors, coca chewers, deer hunters, and so on. And that, that worked out. So we were fumbling around with this even to – almost the day we shipped this stuff to you, to Dumbarton Oaks.

RR: When did you start producing rollout images of the fineline painting? So was there a difference between the way you photographed the objects when you first did your trip in – I think we’re talking about the mid-1970s right now.

CD: Yeah, there was a big difference because I was not aware that we could do roll out drawings, or how important roll out drawings would be to the study of Moche iconography. And I would photograph them – with the pot, I would just turn it slightly and another photograph, the other photograph, and so on. But these photographs, although they had all of the iconography visible in the suite of photographs that I would take of a fineline painted vessel, each photograph had so much parallax that there was no way you could possibly trace it and get any kind of a flattened out impression of what was going on. So we could not do – we couldn’t reproduce – Alana tried to reproduce, and she reproduced a couple of them, but they – they’re really funky. Not her fault, but we just didn’t have the kind of coverage. I tried to reproduce one and it didn’t work, to my satisfaction. And then Donna and I realized that the – what I referred to as the high-grade ore in mining Moche iconography was the fineline. There was where all of the combinations of things that are depicted in single sculptural figures come together, and that was what we should really focus on. And betwee – I don’t know how we did this, but between Donna and I, we figured out that if I could – if I photographed these the way those are photographed, where I keep coming in at a fixed focal distance from the pot, and just take certain pieces of it, all the way around, maybe thirty-six photographs of one pot, where I had been photographing a fineline bottle with eight photos, now we had thirty-six and they were all standardized, and they were all where my lens was at a perfect tangent to the surface of the chamber, then Donna could roll those out and use just the center of each photograph, which was essentially flat, it had so little parallax. And then we just kept refining that. She would give me tips as to what more she needed, and I kept trying to deliver on that and it, then she just set out rolling these things out, and I was – we used to kid about – I would tell her, as soon as you’ve rolled out every one of them that I have already photographed, we’ll quit doing this. And she never – I was still way ahead of her when she finally passed away, but she had rolled out, I think, well nearly all. Ninety-eight percent of the important ones, or the ones that we were confident didn’t have recent over painting. There were a number of them that were really interesting, but they’d been doctored up by, by people and so we kind of stayed away from them.

RR: And what did you learn about – from seeing the fineline drawings?

CD: Oh, they’re, they’re – that’s where everything is shown. It’s the difference really between a nativity scene, with everything in it, the barnyard animals, Mary, Joseph, the Christ child, the innkeepers, the wise men, everything in one nativity, versus the Christ child in a manger, you know, which you can get, you can gather up five hundred of those, but – without knowing the rest of the scene. So it was – it was that kind of a difference. It was everything. And today, if you look at Moche publications, the vast majority of Moche scholars are working with our fineline drawings. You know it’s a delight to me that I keep seeing these – “drawing by Donna McClelland.” I just think, yes! It is a drawing… And also, she was the gold standard. Some of the pots that we rolled out, she did the fineline drawing. I would photograph the pot, and she would do a drawing, and we would, she would realize, as I would, that the drawing that had been published of this pot, many times before, was wrong. It had things in it that weren’t there, it had – it wasn’t standardized, it was just hard to work with it. And so a drawing by Donna McClelland, [claps] that’s, that’s what everybody relies on, they think, that’s what was – is really on that pot. But it was in part because we were doing these from photographs. Previous drawings were done where an artist would simply look at the pot and make a rendition of it, which often wasn’t very accurate, so…

RR: And during that process you went back to Europe? Is that right, to photograph some of the –

CD: Yeah, and then I went back to Europe, and I went specifically to photograph, to re-photograph all of the fineline pieces. Which I did. And at that – on that trip, I did not photograph, I don’t think I photographed five pieces that weren’t fineline. But I just blitzed the finelines. And I also took the photographs of the fineline in quadrant views, in color, which are the ones that are in the Moche fineline painting book. I didn’t have these nice color photographs of the pieces before. So yeah, I did that, and at the same time, I was – I knew we were going to be doing this fineline book, because we had decided we were going to do it, and I had a, a Getty fellowship for one year, which allowed, which –

RR: [unintelligible]

CD: Yeah, to do that book, which was a godsend. And knowing that I was going to do it, I also knew that when we finished that book, I wanted to do a book on portraits. And so on that trip, when I did all of the fineline again, British Museum, Berlin, Stuttgart, Munich, everywhere, I photographed all of the portraits they had, in color. And that was the – what I needed to do the portrait book. So that worked out. I’m glad I knew that the portrait book was coming, because to go back again to pick up the portraits would have been twice the cost.

RR: And did you mean that you got Getty funding to do this, to go back to Europe?

CD: No, no I – well that’s a long story, I won’t get into it, but there was some money available through the Getty. I didn’t know how much, but I went ahead and made all the arrangements with all the museums and then found out that the amount that they had available was – wasn’t adequate to get me to Chicago. And so I just financed that out of pocket. I just – we just knew it was going to be worth it. And I had some research money, too, through the University. It worked out. But the Getty was, was wonderful because it gave me the year off, and it was – it came at just the right year because, I think Donna and I were in our peak time for really knowing and having the awareness of the corpus of fineline painting. And Donna was still drawing ones because we thought, well let’s include this one in the book, lets include that one. So she was doing that, I was writing the book, and Don had retired, and he was interested in designing the book, and so we had – there we were, the three of us in the Moche archive, with the book designer there, designing this in double page spreads, I mean it was [laughs] – this is the kind of thing – that’s what makes that book work because its all, you turn the page and all the images are there and the discussion of the text and so on, and sometimes Don would say, is there anything more you have to say about this category, because I need a little more text in here. Or he’d say, could we shorten this a bit? So I’d work on doing that so that the text kept pace with the images. And we would, we were down there in the archive, ten, eleven o’clock at night, night after night after night, just working on this. And I didn’t have anything else I had to be doing and nor did they, so we, we just had a great time.

RR: And after your trip – how long were you in Europe?

CD: That time?

RR: Yeah, that time.

CD: About – I would guess around three weeks.

RR: Ok. And then you went back from Europe to UCLA again, and you continued the project and also continued teaching?

CD: Yeah, after that year off with the Getty Fellowship, I went right back to teaching full time.

RR: Well, I just want to quickly talk about how the Moche archive was used when it was still at UCLA. What kinds of scholars or students did you get, or that consulted the collection?

CD: Lots of them, if they had a specific question. Lots of people would contact me, or not lots, but many, that would say oh, you know I understand you’ve built this wonderful archive at UCLA, could I come and look at it, and I would say well, what are you doing research on, “Oh, I’d just like to look through it,” but this would be like going to a library and asking the librarian, “what you got to read?” You know, and those we would not, I would just say you know I’m really sorry but we don’t have the capability of just making it available, but if you have a specific research objective then it would be probably really useful for you. So we only turned down people who didn’t have something specific. If they did, it didn’t matter who they were, I was delighted to have them, Donna was always very gracious. And it was very easy because we had big tables in there, like you do here, and we could just lay these things out if people were interested in – I remember Sue Bergh, I don’t know if you know Sue, she’s wonderful, she’s – she’s down in Cleveland, Museum of Art – Sue was interested in the erotic in Moche art, I had no idea of doing anything with the erotic, and she came through on a couple of occasions, and it was just so easy to get all of the erotic art out on the table so no matter – five minutes. And she could just work on it. And she knew what she wanted, we could get – continue doing what we were doing, and she was just a joy to have around. And that was kind of the experience with almost everyone. Edward de Bock, from Holland came through, actually I put him up in my home for about ten days, and then he stayed on at – in Los Angeles, and he worked in the archive for, I don’t know five or six weeks, but it was, it was that kind of thing. Just like what you’re doing here now.

RR: And my last question – I would like to know what are you working on now?

CD: I’m actually just finishing an article, which I will send in to press within ten days, which is a study that I was interested in many years ago – actually, there’s one category called “ceremonial badminton” in the archive. And it – as it turns out we have a total of sixteen scenes that show ceremonial badminton in this – and it’s called ceremonial badminton because Gerdt Kutscher, the gentleman who I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting, wrote an article back in the ‘50s called, “Ceremonial Badminton in Moche Art,” or something like that. A brief article, in which he – he saw these – in the art these people who seemed to be throwing an at – with an atlatl a spear up in the air, with a cord wound around it and what seemed to be a feathered object at one end of the cord. And he thought that this looked like the shuttlecock used in playing badminton. So he called this “ceremonial badminton.” Which I have called it in various publications over the years, and I use – we used the same term for a category in the archive. But I never understood it. I couldn’t – Donna and I talked about it often. We couldn’t figure out what it was, how it worked. One time I thought, they’re throwing this spear, and maybe this cord that’s wound around the spear is to make the spear spiral, to make it go straight, because the spears don’t have any fletching on them. They don’t – so maybe this would cause it to go straight, or, I didn’t know. At any rate, I retired, and last year – a year before last, I was having lunch with this friend of mine, I was talking about this, and he got interested in it, and I brought in all the representations, and we looked at these, and we decided to make an atlatl, and a spear and a feathered object [laughs]. And he came over one afternoon, and we were throwing this thing, we’d made the atlatl out of a piece of PVC pipe, plastic pipe, and we made the spear out of plastic pipe, and we rigged up these feathered objects, and we went across the street from my house – I’ve – it’s just a hillside, natural vegetation. And I threw this thing, and it unwound, and this feathered thing came drifting down, I thought mon dieu, this is just the way it’s shown in Moche art. You know, this, this is meant to get that thing airborne, and then come down. The people who do this in the art are plainly dressed. I call them now “throwers.” And then there’s another group that’s very elaborately dressed, very high status, with all kinds of ornaments and so on, and they throw a spear with an atlatl, up in the air, with crosspieces, and its meant to ensnare this thing on its way down. Well this worked so well that I got, I thought, you know, if someone who really knew how to throw with an atlatl – this is the first time I’d ever thrown anything in my life with an atlatl – was a good atlatl thrower I could get interested in this, maybe we could really learn more about it. And so I Googled “atlatl tournament,” I don’t know why, but turns out, to my surprise, that there are atlatl tournaments that meet all over Western Europe, all over the United States, there’s probably one going on now, a gathering of what they call atlatlists, who just love throwing atlatls. So I started networking with these people, a wonderful guy down near San Diego, who I sent a lot of drawings to, and I told him, you know I’m a retired professor and – and I thought, God, this guy’s going to think I’m absolutely bonkers. So I said, you, you might want to Google me, you know, because there’s a lot of things about publications and – at any rate, he wrote back, first word was, “Wow.” He says, “this is wonderful!” and he went on and on, he understood everything about it. So I’ve met with him, we – I’ll make this into not too long a story – and I have been working with atlatl throwers, I’ve started throwing atlatls myself, and we went out, Marydee and I, and camped with them. There’s a big meet in Nevada, at the Valley of Fire, every March, so this last March we were camping out there with them. We got a video of how this works, not only the throwing, but the catching, everything about it, and this article describes this in great detail, and for the first time of anything I’ve published, it refers the reader to a video that you can access online, of this being performed, exactly the way it’s shown in Moche art. So it’s – it’s a – it’s been an enormous amount of fun for me to network with these people, I love this. I don’t know what I’ll get into next, I have an idea, but that’s what I’m just – I’ve just finished publishing. Actually, I’ll tell you the idea. Which came out of this article. If you take the sixteen scenes that we have of ceremonial badminton, in the scenes, in several of the scenes, there are things that don’t have anything whatsoever to do with ceremonial badminton. With throwing, or catching, or doing – but they relate to other things in Moche art. To ritual runners, or to musicians, or to sacrifice ceremony. And I thought, these things, these activities that we see depicted in Moche art, and categorized as different categories, were probably going on at the same festival. They show you ceremonial badminton, but there are musicians – there are things that only musicians do. Or only ritual runners or only – this only happens at the sacrifice ceremony. And so now I want to go back through the archive and see if I can’t reconstruct what a Moche festival would consist of, as not one activity, but a whole suite, so that if you were a Moche and you went to a ceremonial center, you would go there not expecting just to see ceremonial badminton, but to know that ceremonial badminton is also going to involve – they’re going to see a lot of music, and dance, you’re going to see some human sacrifice, you’ll probably see ritual running races, you’ll, you’ll see some deer hunting in enclosures, so that…[laughs] I can tell you this because here for forty years we never had any idea that these categories that we were dividing things into were pieces of one thing. By the very nature of the way we structured the archive. Which, intrigues me now because the nature of iconographic research will cause the researcher to channel into categories that shouldn’t be divided, that were never divided, they were – and what I would like to do is to develop a publication that gets into that and why we ended up categorizing these and separating them out when we shouldn’t have been. So. But we’ll see. There’s always another piece of this that intrigues me.

RR: I think I’ve – I mean you’ve answered all of my questions, but is there anything else that you would like to add to your oral history?

CD: Actually, I was thinking of that, if you didn’t ask it or it didn’t come up, and I’ve already alluded to this, I don’t think you could ever know how great it is that the archive is at Dumbarton Oaks. It’s, it’s here forever. And I understand that people are getting word that it’s here and they’re coming here to work with it, so on behalf of Donna and I both, it’s a – I know she would be absolutely thrilled that it’s here and it wont get lost. It’ll always be here. So that’s very important.

RR: Thank you very much for your time. I truly enjoyed it, thank you.

CD: My pleasure. I think I’ve taken you past time.