In Memoriam


With sadness we note the passing on July 30 of Professor Emerita SYLVIA MARGUERITE BROADBENT of the Department of Anthropology, following a long illness. Born in 1932 in London, she emigrated with her family to America in 1947, settling in Carmel, California. She graduated from Carmel High School at age 16, and with support from fellowships went on to earn AA, BA, and PhD degrees in anthropology and linguistics at Berkeley, where her research commitment focused on preservation of native California Indian languages.

Her doctoral dissertation, A Grammar of Southern Sierra Miwok, was completed in 1960. It was the first of her four major publications on the Miwok language, others being Central Sierra Miwok Dictionary, with Texts (with L.S. Freeland, University of California Press, 1960); Comparative Miwok: a Preliminary Survey (with C.A. Callaghan, Waverly Press, Indiana University, 1960); and The Southern Sierra Miwok Language (University of California Press, 1964). 

After graduation Professor Broadbent went to live in Bogotá, Colombia, and began career-long studies of the Chibcha (Muisca) civilization. She taught briefly at Northwestern University in the spring of 1961, then at Barnard College of Columbia University until 1964, after which she joined the faculty of the Universidad de Los Andes, in Bogotá, Colombia, where she taught and studied Chibcha culture and history. Her research there produced Los Chibchas: Organización Socio-Politico (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1964); Investigaciones Arqueológicas en el Territorio Chibcha (Universidad de los Andes, 1965); and La Arquelología del Territorio Chibcha, II: Hallazgos Aislados y Monumentos de Piedra (Universidad de los Andes, 1970).

Professor Broadbent joined the Anthropology Department at Riverside in 1966 where she taught linguistics, language and culture, archaeology, prehistory, and symbolism, and continued her studies in Andean ethnohistory, but also in symbolism, the California Mission period, and other topics. In 1983 she was awarded the Robert F. Heizer Prize by the American Society for Ethnohistory for her comprehensive work “The Formation of Peasant Society in Central Colombia”, which remains a contribution of lasting significance.

A person of complex and varied interests, Professor Broadbent was an activist in the Sierra Club, and a staunch fighter in environmental and historical preservation issues. She loved exploring the California deserts and their archaeological traces with students. Former colleagues and students respect her loyal support and mentoring, her requirement that research be of highest caliber, and that nothing short of clear and proper writing was acceptable.

Professor Broadbent retired from UCR in 1992, but was recalled to teach several times thereafter. Her research papers are filed in Special Collections/University Archives of the Rivera Library. A graduate research fellowship for studies in anthropology at UCR has been established in her name.