Raised in Denver, Hannna Marie Wormington-Volk majored in zoology at the University of Denver and inadvertently signed up for an archaeology class that would determine her life path. Against the advice of friends and family, who warned that openings were rare for women archaeologists, she went to England and France to continue her study under Europeon experts. Following graduation, she was a staff archaeologist and curator at the Denver Museum of Natural History. She was 26 when she published her best seller “Ancient Man in North America,” an explanation of Stone Age man. She went on to receive and M.A. and Ph.D. of Anthropology at Radcliffe (Harvard University) in 1954. She was the second woman admitted to study in the Harvard anthropology department and the first woman to obtain a doctorate degree in anthropology. Her specific field of study was the earliest North American hunting cultures that lived 10,000 to 25,000 years ago. She cam across and early report on obscure sites in Southeast Utah, which led her to reappraise the Fremont culture and enabled her to expand her research on North America’s earliest human population.
As a member of anthropology delegations and to further her research, Dr. Wormington visited twenty-nine foreign countries. She was on e of the first professional exchange archaeologist to enter the former Soviet Union and to visit the Republic of China. While in Russia, she was the first American scientist to be flown into southern Siberia—a trip that fulfilled her dream of reaching the Siberian side of the Bering Strait, where primitive man made his first crossing into the New World many thousands of years ago. She saw ancient stone tools, weapons and implements that indicated the first emigration across the Bering Strait.
Wormington led excavations at the Folsom site near LaPorte, Colorado, as well as at rock shelters in Mesa and Montrose Counties and at the Fremont village site in Utah. Her rare gift was integrating scattered discoveries into a broad view of Paleo-Indian archaeology.
In 1940, she married George Volk, a petroleum engineer who shared her interest in archaeology. Here husband joined her on a three-week trip to Mexico to acquire Aztec pottery and figurines for the Denver Natural History Museum. They displayed masks from the Easter Islands along with other artifacts at their large home in Denver.
Friends were shocked to hear of personal friction between her and the director of the Museum of Natural History, this led Hannah to dismissed. Hannah never went back, but taught in Arizona for some time but then became a visiting professor at Colorado College and taught at the Universities of Minnesota and Wyoming. For many years, Dr. Wormington was a research associate in Paleo-Indian studies at the University of Colorado Museum in Boulder.
She went on to publish six more books about prehistoric inhabitants of the Southwest. During her career she attended archaeological congresses, conferences, and symposiums in 29 foreign countries and received numerous awards. Wormington was the first female archaeologist to be elected president of the Society for American Archaeology. She was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1970. In 1983, the Society of American Archaeology awarded her the Distinguished Service Award, she was the first female archaeologist to receive the award.
After her husband’s death, Dr. Wormington continued to live in their Park Hill home. She died in a fire at that home, possibly caused by a burning cigarette. Her ashes are in a copy of a prehistoric bowl and interred at Fairmount Cemetery.
From the book “Women of Consequence” by Jeanne Varnell