Margaret Elizabeth Ashley-Towle

Margaret Elizabeth Ashley-Towle was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 12, 1902. Her father, Claude Lordawick Ashley, was chief of the Atlanta city council. Margaret’s mother, Elizabeth Miller, was the daughter of Captain Hiram Miller, a veteran of the Federal army. After graduating from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta with an A.B. in English literature and a minor in journalism, Margaret enrolled in Columbia University, pursuing a graduate degree in anthropology. While at Columbia, Margaret studied under Franz Boas. In 1926, Ashley began work at what is now known as the Shinholser site (9Bl12) in Baldwin County, Georgia.

In July 1927, she began working on her dissertation topic, “An Archaeological Survey of Georgia.” By September of that year, already recognized as an expert in her field, Ashley was asked to organize a department of archaeology for Emory University and to represent Emory in Warren K. Moorehead’s excavations at the Etowah site in northern Georgia. Ashley accepted this position and discontinued her official studies at Columbia.

While working for Emory, Ashley, along with Frank T. Schnell Sr., performed significant excavations at Lockett Mound, now known as the Neisler site (9Tr1), located near the Flint River. Ashley and Schnell spent three weeks at Neisler, performing major trench excavation atop the mound and surveying 250 test units. Two fire pits were uncovered on the mound and fourteen burials excavated in the outlying area.

On February 18, 1930, Ashley married Gerald Towle, a Harvard graduate and Moorehead’s top field assistant. Upon her marriage, Margaret abandoned archaeology for some fourteen years, never to resume field work in Georgia. In 1944, directly after Gerald’s death, she returned to her pursuits at Columbia, this time studying ethnobotany. In 1958, Margaret completed her dissertation, The Ethnobotany of Pre-Columbian Peru as Evidenced by Archaeological Materials, and received her Ph.D.

Upon completing her studies at Columbia, Margaret worked for the Harvard Botanical Museum as an unpaid associate until her death on November 2, 1985.

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