Florence Hawley Ellis was born in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico, where her father was chief chemist for a copper mine. She was a small child at the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in 1913, when her family moved to Miami, Arizona. She majored in English at the University of Arizona, graduating in 1927. A year later, she received her M.A. with a thesis entitled "Pottery and Cultures of the Middle Gila." She became one of the first women to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1934, based on research she had done at Chetro Ketl at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. In 1934, she joined the faculty of the University of New Mexico, where she taught for more than 35 years. In 1936, she married Donovan Senter, an archeologist, with whom she had a daughter; in 1950, after a divorce from Senter, she married Bruce Ellis, an historian, and took his surname. She took part in and led many field excavations around the USA, and became a pioneer in dendrochronology (a method of dating using tree rings), chemical analysis, and ethno-archeology. In 1971, near the end of her teaching career, she and her students discovered an archeological treasure trove of ceramic pots hidden in a lava field north of the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM, that rocked the world of anthropology. She published dozens of scholarly articles, and among her books were From Drought to Drought: An Archaeological Record of Life Patterns (1988), San Gabriel Del Yungue as Seen by an Archaeologist: Examination of an Historic Site in New Mexico (1989), and Pueblo Indians: Archaeologic and Ethnologic Data: Acoma-Laguna Land Claims (1977). After her nominal retirement from UNM, she often served as an expert witness for Pueblo land claims.