OLSON, Ronald Leroy

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Ronald L. Olson (1895-(1979)

OLSON, Ronald Leroy (1895-1979)[SS#286-24-6152], Minnesota-born graduate of anthropology with a masters degree from the University of Washington, Seattle and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. For two years Olson became assistant curator of archaeology in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City most of which time he spent in Peru conducting archaeology. Olson preferred cultural anthropology however, and in 1931 Alfred Kroeber created a position for him on staff at Berkeley where Olson remained until his retirement in 1956.

Olson's Camp, Johnson's Lee, Santa Cruz Island. 1929

In 1927 Olson and Mr. Hill joined D. B. Rogers’ excavations on Santa Cruz Island (Leaflet June 1927). Olson spent a total of eleven weeks on Santa Cruz Island in 1927, and in 1928 he returned to the island for an additional six weeks. According to Olson, “Island sites are definitely richer in artifacts than those of the Mainland.” As a result of his island field work, Olson was able to report the locality of Pleistocene fossil deposits to Ralph W. Chaney at the University. Olson worked at Prisoners’ Harbor, Coches Prietos, Willows, Cañada Cebada, Christy Ranch, Forney’s Cove, Johnson’s Landing, Morse Point, Poso Creek, between Fry’s and Platts harbors at Orizaba, in the Central Valley, and on the east end of the island at both Scorpion Anchorage and Smugglers Cove. His Santa Cruz Island collections were deposited at the University of California, Museum of Anthropology, under the direction of anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber. When Ambrose Gherini, one of the owners of the east end of Santa Cruz Island, found out that artifacts from his portion of the island had been removed without his permission, he demanded their return. In September 1928, 20 packages of materials were sent via Southern Pacific and the vessel Helen back to the east end of the island.

Olson died on August 1, 1979 in San Diego County at age 83.

  • 1927. Olson, Ronald L. On the Island of the Dead California Monthly 21(3):166-167, 1927

  • 1928. HARRINGTON, John Peabody Exploration of the Burton Mound at Santa Barbara, California by John P. Harrington. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1928. Forty-fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1926-1927. Herrington pages 23-168 + 27 plates. Ex-lib. signed Ronald Olson.
[original in SCIF archives; ex-lib MDD]

  • 1930. Olson, Ronald L. Chumash Prehistory University of California Berkeley Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 28:1-21, 1930

Island Collections~
Golden Eagle (2 left) and Bald Eagle (2 right) talons collected in archaeological sites in 1927 & 1928 by R. L. Olson, Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island R. L. Olson UCB July 1928 MVZ-41126 Urocyon littoralis santacruzae Mammals
Santa Cruz Island R. L. Olson UCB 1928 PHMA 1-37069 Aquila chrysaetos talon Arch
Santa Cruz Island R. L. Olson UCB 1928 PHMA 1-36872 Aquila chrysaetos talon Arch
Santa Cruz Island R. L. Olson UCB 1928 PHMA 1-30531 (larger) Haliaeetus leucocephalus talon Arch
Santa Cruz Island R. L. Olson UCB 1928 PHMA 1-30531 (smaller) likely Haliaeetus leucocephalus talon Arch

In the News~

May 22, 1927 [OT]: “Expeditions leave U of C. Berkeley. May 21. From anthropology, Ronald Olson, teaching fellow, and William W. Hill, graduate student, are leaving this week for two months on Santa Cruz Island, off Santa Barbara, where some eighty-six Chumash Indian village sites have been discovered. The island is occupied by one large ranch and is twenty-five miles in length.”

September 4, 1928 [letter on file; SCIF]: “Mr. Ambrose Gherini, 433 California Street, San Francisco, California. Dear Sir, In accordance with instructions of Dr. Kroeber who is out of town, we are today shipping to you at Santa Barbara 20 packages containing the collection taken off the east end of Santa Cruz Island by Mr. Olson’s party… Curator.”

Olson’s Cave, Santa Cruz Island is named for anthropologist Ronald L. Olson, and is located on the north side of the island in the vicinity of Orizaba Flats. It is one of the few caves in which there are Chumash pictographs, however simple.

» Finley, Richard S. Notes on the Orizaba Pictograph (Olson’s) Cave, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara County, California in Stanford University Grotto Monthly Report, I:10 (2-3), 1965.