Anthropology professor digs for answers

by Tara Millspaugh

Professor Seth Mallios, Department of Anthropology chair director at San Diego State, has been in every building and ceiling on campus; even in the water tank inside Hardy Tower.

Mallios has gone above and beyond teaching in the classroom. He is currently working on six projects simultaneously and he is equally excited about each one.

Mallios’ first project is taking inventory of San Diego’s cemeteries.

“The weird thing is that San Diego doesn’t necessarily value its history. It is the most forward-thinking city I’ve ever been in that often will develop over its past,” said Mallios.

Dr. Seth Mallios, Department of Anthropology Chair | Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor
Dr. Seth Mallios, Department of Anthropology Chair | Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor

According to Mallios, Interstate 15 is placed on top of a burial ground. This is something he would never see happen at his former home in Jamestown, Virginia.

His second project is a five season-long dig on top of Palomar Mountain, excavating Nate Harrison’s home. Harrison was born an enslaved African-American, and died as a land owner.

The Whaley House in Old Town, San Diego is Mallios’ third project. For the past five summers, students have gone with Mallios to the site, in order to uncover some of the house’s secrets. This project is part of the Department of Anthropology’s curriculum, therefore class sizes stay small and every student receives hands-on experience.

Mallios is also the Principal Investigator and Director of South East Information Center. This assignment has him and other archaeologists go to sites and excavate them before buildings and large corporations develop on the areas.

A newer project Mallios has started is researching the history of rock ‘n’ roll at SDSU. He picked up this idea after saving a mural from being torn down at Aztec Center. After much convincing and a cost of about $50,000, Mallios was able to save the 1970 mural of the brightly colored Aztec warriors rocking out.

According to Mallios, Montezuma Hall was a hotspot for rock ‘n’ roll. Legends such as Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Ray Charles and Guns and Roses all once graced the stage of SDSU’s very own Aztec Center.

Mallios’ final project nearing completion is writing the history of SDSU.

“It drives me crazy when people say there is no tradition at this institution, because it has immense traditions,” Mallios said. “It has histories, it is legendary.”

In his book, he said he will emphasize the rich history of SDSU, which many would never suspect. For example, leading to the Mediterranean garden, there is a reptile footprint that dates back 225 million years . There is also a World War II bomb shelter underneath the old administration building.

Mallios said the most important moment in SDSU history was when President John F. Kennedy visited campus six months before his assassination. According to Mallios, Kennedy honored the college with legitimacy to start pursuing doctorate programs. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s appearance.

After Kennedy was assassinated, the campus put in plans to build a reflective pool in front of Hepner Hall. This pool of remembrance was budgeted in at the same time as Love Library, but for various reasons, the design never went through.

All of these secrets, and more of SDSU’s history, will be found in Mallios’ book, “Hail Montezuma: The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State.” The book is set to be published and available next February.

Mallios wants SDSU’s professors, administration, and students to truly understand their university’s rich history. He said he himself has such an appreciation for the campus and all of San Diego.

“This book is just my way of saying thanks for having me,” Mallios said.

It may seem like Mallios has his hands full with a variety of time-consuming projects, but he said he was more than happy to meet the challenge.

“It’s a great problem to have, you know, being too excited to come to work.,” Mallios said.