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Marion Pugh; Helped Husband Study the Olmecs

Obituaries | PASSINGS

May 15, 2001

Marion Illig Stirling Pugh, 89, a Smithsonian secretary who married her archeologist boss and with him studied the ancient Olmec civilization of Middle America, died April 24 in Tucson.

The young woman took night classes in anthropology, geology and Russian while working for Matthew W. Stirling, and learned archeology after marrying him in 1933.

She became, he said, his "co-explorer, co-author and general coordinator" on expeditions to Mexico, Panama, Ecuador and Costa Rica beginning in 1938.

It was she who calculated the dot-dash date carved into an Olmec stone they found in Veracruz, Mexico, in 1939. The carved markings, she determined, equated to 31 BC, which for decades remained the oldest recorded date found in the New World.

The Stirlings shared the National Geographic Society's Franklin L. Burr Award in 1941. She later was president of the Society of Women Geographers and of the Textile Museum Board.

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