The papers of Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki, 1904-2017 (bulk 1951-1999) primarily document their archaeological excavations and subsequent analysis of Near East sites including Shanidar Cave and Zawi Chemi Shanidar in northern Iraq; Yabroud, Syria; and Nahr Ibrahim and El Masloukh, Lebanon primarily during the 1950s-1980s. The papers also include their work at other sites throughout the Near East and North America and files relating to the professional careers at the Smithsonian Institution, Columbia University, and Texas A and M University. The collection consists of field notes, data and analysis, manuscript drafts, publications, corrrespondence, illustrations and maps, photographic prints, negatives, slides, and recorded film.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki document their archaeological excavations and subsequent analysis of Near East sites including Shanidar Cave and Zawi Chemi Shanidar in northern Iraq; Yabroud, Syria; Nahr Ibrahim and El Masloukh, Lebanon primarily during the 1950s-1980s. The papers also reflect their academic careers as students and faculty at Columbia University, staff at the Smithsonian Institution, and adjunct faculty at Texas A&M University.
The bulk of the collection consists of materials relating to the Soleckis' archaeological excavations at Shanidar Cave and Zawi Chemi Shanidar in northern Iraq (1951-1960); Yabroud, Syria (1963-1965, 1981, 1987-1988); Nahr Ibrahim and El Masloukh, Lebanon (1969-1973). These materials include field notebooks, excavation catalogs, research notes, data analysis, manuscript drafts, publications, correspondence, illustrations, maps, photographs, slides, sound recordings, and film. Similar materials from other expeditions and projects include aerial photography projects in the 1950s-1960s; expeditions to Alaska in 1949 and 1961; expeditions to Sudan, Iran, and Turkey through the Columbia University Near East expeditions (or C.U.N.E.) throughout the 1960s-1970s; and various archaeological projects elsewhere in North America such as Ralph's work with the River Basin Surveys in the 1940s-1950s, New York, and elsewhere in the eastern United States, contain similar materials.
The papers also contain research and teaching files in the form of annotated publications, course materials, student theses, and other files from their time as students and faculty at Columbia University, staff at the Smithsonian Institution, and adjunct faculty at Texas A&M University. Correspondence and administrative files such as grant applications, daybooks, and departmental forms and files from their professional careers are also within the collection. Personal files, while sparse, are also represented.
The Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki papers are divided into 7 series:
• Series 1: Shanidar Cave and Zawi Chemi Shanidar, Iraq, 1947-2017 (bulk 1951-1990)
• Series 2: Yabroud, Syria, 1964-1992 (bulk 1960s-1980s)
• Series 3: Nahr Ibrahim and El Masloukh, Lebanon, 1968-1998 (bulk 1969-1973)
• Series 4: Other Expeditions and Projects
• Series 5: Research and Teaching Files
• Series 6: Correspondence and Administrative Files
• Series 7: Personal Files
Biographical / Historical:
Ralph S. Solecki (1917-2019) and Rose L. Solecki (b. 1925) are archaeologists that worked in the Near East at Shanidar Cave and Zawi Chemi Shanidar in northern Iraq (1951-1960); Yabroud, Syria (1963-1965, 1981, 1987); and Nahr Ibrahim and El Masloukh in Lebanon (1969-1973). Ralph Solecki also conducted archaeological field work in North America at sites in Nebraska, Alaska, and New York as well as with the Smithsonian Institution's River Basin Surveys. From 1958-1988, Ralph Solecki was a professor of anthropology at Columbia University. The Soleckis became adjunct faculty at Texas A&M University.
Stefan Ralph Solecki was born on October 15th, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Newtown High School in 1936, he attended the City College of New York from 1936-1941 and received a B.S. in Geology in 1942. Solecki then served in the US Army and fought in World War II. He was discharged in 1945. In 1946, Solecki enrolled at Columbia University to study Anthropology, and he received a M.A. degree in 1950. During this time, Solecki worked for the River Basin Surveys at the Smithsonian Institution. He also accompanied a geological survey to northern Alaska in 1949. In 1951, he became an associate curator of archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution. In that same year, he traveled to Iraq to survey prehistoric sites and began Season I of excavation at Shanidar Cave. Solecki then received a Fulbright fellowship to return to Iraq in 1953-1954 to continue excavations at Shanidar Cave (Season II) and conduct research at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. In 1958, he received his PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University and accepted a faculty position within the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University. Following the final two seasons of excavation at Shanidar Cave (see below for details on Season III and IV), Solecki led a number of Columbia University expeditions to various locations around the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. He also spent three seasons (1963-1964, 1981, 1987) surveying and excavating the site of Yabroud in Syria and three field seasons excavating the sites of Nahr Ibrahim (1969, 1970, 1973) and El Masloukh (1969) in Lebanon. Solecki retired from Columbia University in 1988.
Rose Muriel (née Lilien) Solecki was born on November 18th, 1925 in New York City, New York. She completed her undergraduate studies in Anthropology from Hunter College in 1945, and she went on to receive her M.A. and PhD degrees in Anthropology from Columbia University. While at Columbia, she studied under William Duncan Strong and joined Strong's excavations in Peru from 1952-1953. Rose Solecki acted as a research associate within the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University until Ralph Solecki's retirement in 1988.
Ralph and Rose met at Columbia University as students and married in 1955. In 1956-1957, both Ralph and Rose Solecki travelled to Iraq, where Ralph conducted a third season of excavation at Shanidar Cave and Rose excavated the nearby Zawi Chemi Shanidar village site. In 1960, the Soleckis returned for a fourth and final field season of excavation at Shanidar Cave and Zawi Chemi Shanidar, where they were accompanied by Smithsonian Institution curator of Physical Anthropology, T. Dale Stewart. Ralph and Rose Solecki both held positions at Columbia University until Ralph's retirement in 1988. In 1990, Ralph and Rose served as adjunct professors at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. In 2000, they left Texas A&M University and moved to South Orange, New Jersey.
Ralph Solecki died in Livingston, New Jersey on March 20, 2019.
Chronology of the Life of Ralph S. Solecki
1917 October 15 -- Born in Brooklyn, New York, USA
1942 -- B.S. in Geology from City College of New York
1942-1945 -- Served in the United States Army during World War II
1948 -- Started working with the Smithsonian Institution's River Basin Surveys
1948-1949 -- Accompanied a United States Geological Survey party to the upper Kokpowruk and Kokolik rivers at the Brooks Range in northwestern Alaska
1950 -- M.A. in Anthropology from Columbia University
1951 -- First field season at Shanidar Cave, Iraq
1953-1954 -- Fulbright fellowship to conduct fieldwork in Iraq Second field season at Shanidar Cave, Iraq Shanidar Child skeleton discovered
1955 -- Married Rose M. Lilien
1956-1957 -- Third field season at Shanidar Cave, Iraq Shanidar I, II, and III skeletons discovered
1958 -- Appointed Associate Curator of Archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University Accepted post at Columbia University as Associate Professor of Anthropology
1960 -- Fourth field season at Shanidar Cave Shanidar IV, V, VI, VII (or IV-VII), and VIII skeletons discovered
1961-1962 -- Columbia University Nubian Expedition to Sudan
1963 -- Columbia University Near East (C.U.N.E.) Expedition to Seberde, Turkey and Yabroud, Syria
1964-1965 -- Columbia University Near East (C.U.N.E.) Expedition to Yabroud, Syria
1969-1973 -- Three field seasons at Nahr Ibrahim and El Masloukh, Lebanon
1971 -- Authored Shanidar: The First Flower People
1981 -- Archaeological survey at Yabroud, Syria
1987-1988 -- Field season at Yabroud, Syria
1988 -- Retired from Columbia University
1990-2000 -- Served as Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Texas A&M University
2004 -- Coauthored The Proto-Neolithic Cemetery in Shanidar Cave with Rose L. Solecki and Anagnostis Agelarakis
2019 March 20 -- Died in Livingston, New Jersey
Chronology of the Life of Rose L. Solecki
1925 November 18 -- Born in New York City, New York
circa 1945 -- B.S. in Anthropology at Hunter College
1946 -- Enrolled at Columbia University
1952-1953 -- Field season in Peru under William Duncan Strong
1956 -- PhD from Columbia University
1956-1957 -- Field season at Zawi Chemi Shanidar, Iraq
1960 -- Field season at Zawi Chemi Shanidar, Iraq
1990-2000 -- Served as Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Texas A&M University
2004 -- Coauthored The Proto-Neolithic Cemetery in Shanidar Cave with Ralph S. Solecki and Anagnostis P. Agelarakis
The Smithsonian Insitution's National Museum of Natural History's Department of Anthropology contains archaeological and ethnographic collections relating to the work of Ralph and Rose Solecki including accession numbers 202536, 209544, 217009, 220078, 220920, 224956, 232170, 242336, 249217, 356696.
Accession 220078 contains archaeological and archaeobiological material excavated by Ralph and Rose Solecki at Shanidar Cave and Zawi Chemi Shanidar. An accretion transferred in 2016 was cataloged as part of the Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki Papers and Artifacts Project (2017-2019) and cross-references excavation and artifact analysis within the Solecki papers.
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Ralph and Rose Solecki and their sons, John and William, in 2016, 2018, and 2019.
The Donald J. Ortner Papers, dated 1963 to 2013, document his research and professional activities while working in the Division of Physical Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. They primarily deal with his contributions to the field of paleopathology and his work with specimens from Bab edh-Dhra, Jordan and Chichester, England. The bulk of this collection consists of correspondence, files related to Ortner's publications, specimen observations and analysis, and photographs.
Scope and Contents:
The Donald J. Ortner Papers primarily document his projects, research, and correspondence working as a biological anthropologist in the Division of Physical Anthropology of the Department of Anthropology from 1963 until his death in 2012. The bulk of the projects represented relate to his work in paleopathology, such as the Near Eastern skeletal biology program in Jordan and the medieval skeletal disease project in England. The collection consists of notes, research materials, correspondence, data and data analysis, transcripts of specimen observations, maps, blueprints, artwork, negatives, slides, photographs, CD-Roms, floppy discs, and sound cassettes.
This collection is arranged in 8 series: Series 1. Correspondence, 1966-2012; Series 2. Subject files, 1965-2013, undated; Series 3. Near Eastern Skeletal Biology Program, 1977-2010, undated; Series 4. Medieval Skeletal Disease Project, 1988-2006, undated; Series 5. Other publications, projects, and research, 1963-2011, undated; Series 6. Professional activities, 1971-2007, undated; Series 7. Biographical and office files, 1963-2011, undated; Series 8. Artwork, 1978, undated
Donald J. Ortner was a biological anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). By the time of his death, Ortner had served in many positions at the Museum, including Acting Director (1994-1996). His areas of expertise included human paleopathology, human health in medieval England, bioarcheology of the ancient Near East, and the history and evoluton of human infectious diseases. Ortner was a founding member of the Paleopathology Association.
Ortner was born in 1938 in Stoneham, Massachusetts and arrived at the NMNH in 1963, working primarily with J. Lawrence Angel who had recently started as Curator in the Division of Physical Anthropology. While working at the Museum, Ortner completed his Master's in Anthropology in 1967 and received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1970. His doctoral dissertation was on The Effects of Aging and Disease on the Micromorphology of Human Compact Bone.
Ortner worked with Walter G. J. Putschar, a pathologist based at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, on a series of short-courses (1971-1974) on paleopathology at the Smithsonian. During the summer of 1974, Putschar and Ortner traveled to Europe (London, Edinburgh, Zurich, Strasbourg, Vienna, Prague) studying and photographing examples of skeletal pathology in museums and other repositories. The result of this research was the book Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains published in 1981, with later editions in 1985 and 2003.
In 1977, Ortner joined the Expedition to the Dead Sea Plain directed by archaeologists Walter E. Rast and R. Thomas Schaub, focusing on the site of Bab edh-Dhra. Ortner studied the tombs and skeletons for data indicating cultural and biological changes, especially urbanization and connection to the development of other "Western civilizations." Ortner participated in two more field seasons in Bab edh-Dhra in 1979 and 1981. From his research at Bab-edh-Dhra, Ortner published many scholarly articles and recreated two tombs for the Hall of Western Civilization at NMNH.
In 1988, Ortner began his collaboration with the University of Bradford in Bradford, England, teaching short-courses on paleopathology. While a Visiting Professor at the University, he also participated in a project on human health and disease in Medieval England. The project focused on leprosy and syphilis in skeletons from St. James Hospital's leprosarium cemetery in Chichester, Wharram Perry, and Magistrates' Court in Kingston-upon-Hull. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University in 1995.
Donald J. Ortner died on April 29th, 2012 in Maryland.
Ubelaker, D. H. "Obituary: Donald J. Ortner (1938–2012)." American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 149 (2012): 155–156.
Arnoldi, Mary Jo and Ann Kaupp. "Donald J. Ortner, Sr. (1939-2012)." Anthropolog: Newsletter of the Department of Anthropology, Spring 2012: 1-3.
1938 -- Born on August 23 in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
1960 -- Received B.A. in Zoology from Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Maryland.
1963 -- Began working at the Smithsonian Institution.
1967 -- Received M.A. in Anthropology from Syracuse University.
1969 -- Promoted to Assistant Curator.
1970 -- Received Ph.D. from the University of Kansas.
1971 -- Promoted to Associate Curator.
1971-1975 -- Taught part-time at the University of Maryland.
1974 -- Spent summer with Dr. Walter G. J. Putschar studying pathological specimens in Europe.
1976 -- Promoted to Curator in the Anthropology Department, National Museum of Natural History.
1977 -- First field season at Bab edh-Dhra cemetery site in Jordan.
1979 -- Second field season at Bab edh-Dhra cemetery site in Jordan.
1981 -- Third field season at Bab edh-Dhra cemetery site in Jordan.
1988 -- Began association with the University of Bradford in Bradford, England.
1988-1992 -- Chairman of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History.
1994-1996 -- Acting Director of the National Museum of Natural History.
1995 -- Awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree from the University of Bradford.
1999-2001 -- President of the Paleopathology Association.
2005 -- Received Eve Cockburn Award from the Paleopathology Association in recognition of his contributions in the field of paleopathology.
2012 -- Died on April 29 in Maryland.
The following photo lots depicting Donald J. Ortner can be found at the NAA:
Photo Lot 7D: Photograph of attendees after American Anthropological Association annual meeting, 1965
Photo Lot 7A: Portraits made at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, 1970
Photo Lot 77-45: Photograph of Smithsonian Institution physical anthropologists, circa 1977
Photo Lot 4822: Division of Physical Anthropology collection of photographs of physical anthropologists, undated
Sound recordings of Donald J. Ortner at the NAA:
John Lawrence Angel Papers, Sound Recordings, "How Humans Adapt: A Biocultural Odyssey," November 9, 1981
Other collections at the NAA in which Donald J. Ortner is a correspondent or creator of material:
Records of the Department of Anthropology, 1877-1980
Department of Anthropology Annual Reports, 1920-1983
John Lawrence Angel Papers, 1930s-1980s
Three films that document Ortner's work in Bab edh-Dhra are located in the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA):
Film number 2000.9.1, The Bones of Bab edh-Dhra, ca. 1970s
Film number 2000.9.3, Bab edh-Dhra Film Project, 1970-1980
Film number 2014.3, City of the Dead, 1978
The Smithsonian Institution Archives holds the original City of the Dead in Accession 05-282, Office of Telecommunications, Productions.
These papers were transferred to the NAA from the Department of Anthropology in 2014.
The Donald J. Ortner Papers are open for research.
Access to the Donald J. Ortner Papers requires an appointment.
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Electronic records are unavailable for research. Please contact the reference archivist for
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