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Francis A. (Fritz) Riddell


Courtesy of the ACPAC Newsletter, March 2002
[The American Committee for Preservation of Archaeological Collections]

Fritz was born in Redding, California and moved eventually to Sacramento. WWII broke out while he was enrolled at Sacramento Junior College so he joined the Marines and served in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he earned both a B.A. and an M.A. at Berkeley. During this time he worked in Alaska, Peru, California, Washington, and the Great Basin.

He became curator of the State Indian Museum in 1956 and developed a life-long interest in California Indian tribes, especially the Honey Lake Paiute, Concow Maidu, and Clear Lake Pomo. Fritz was the first archaeologist hired as a state employee in the California Department of Parks and Recreation (Ted Bell, The Sacramento Bee, March 13, 2002), and this was prior to state laws requiring archaeological work before beginning construction, stated Dick Hastings, who worked with him.

"It wasn't that easy," added Bill Olsen, a former colleague. "The state didn't wholeheartedly support archaeology. Much of the state's highways and water projects were being built during the Pat Brown administration of the 1960s, and Fritz was the one who had to put together the (site protection and inspection) program and make it work. Fritz could work with anyone," Olsen added. "He wasn't confrontational. He appreciated that (the construction foremen) had a job to do."

After his retirement in 1983, and rather dismayed by the direction archaeology was heading in the United States, Fritz renewed his love affair with Peruvian pre-history and began research programs there. He was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Arequipa, Peru.

He will be long remembered by his many friends.

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