Ernst Antevs was born in 1888 in Vartofta Sweden. In 1917 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Stockholm. Antevs studied with Gerard De Geer - the creator of the Swedish Varve Chronology. In 1918 Antevs traveled to Spitsbergen with De Geer, and in 1920, to America to help sample North American Varves. Antevs' early research was supported by the National Research Council, The National Geographical Society, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington. During this period, Antevs began to apply the Swedish Varve Chronology of GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE to postglacial and Holocene history of North American. With Kirk Bryan, Antevs shaped the development of geomorphology during the early 20th century (Haynes, 1990).

In 1922, at the invitation of J. C. Merriam, and funded by Carnegie Institution, Antevs began to correlate the pluvial histories of lakes Bonneville, Lahontan, and Mono Lake. During this research, Antevs developed an interest in North American archaeology, and in 1934 Edgar B. Howard invited Antevs to study the deposits at Clovis, New Mexico. And in 1936, H.S. Gladwin invited Antevs to Gila Pueblo. Antevs and his wife Ada built a home in Globe, Arizona.

Thereafter, Antevs' research focused on western North America, and on the Southwest in particular. Collaborating with E.B. Sayles, he studied the Naco, Lehner, and other Southwestern sites. In 1938, Antevs determined that Albert and Summer Lakes, Oregon, and Owens Lake, CA, had been dry before 4000 yr, based on the current rate of salt accumulation and the lakes' modern salinity.

In 1939, Antevs received U.S. citizenship.

In 1948, Antevs published the 3-part Neothermal Climatic Sequence based on the Great Basin lake histories and on Great Basin arroyo geomorphology. This chronology preceded Libby's radiocarbon dating, and was based on Swedish Varve Chronology. The term "Altithermal" remains a central feature in Southwestern archaeological chronologies.

Antevs' breadth can be seen in his participation in the naming of the science of "PALYNOLOGY." In the March 15, 1944 issue of P. B. Sears' Pollen Analysis Circular (no. 6, p. 2) Antevs wrote:
THE RIGHT WORD? - "Is ‘pollen analysis' the proper name for the study of pollen and its applications? The word ‘pollen analysis' (meaning, I suppose, analysis of peat for pollen) was from the beginning used in Sweden to signify the identification and percentage-determination of the pollen grains of the principal forest trees in peat bogs and lake beds. However, its inadequacy was soon obvious, as shown for instance by Gunnar Erdtman's titles ‘Literature on pollen-statistics...' and, beginning in 1932, ‘Literature on pollen-statistics and related topics.' Even the combination ‘statistical pollen analysis', refer only to the method of getting certain data which in itself has little purpose and which does not apply to or cover all the branches of the pollen studies, much less the application of the direct results to climatic conclusions, etc. It is the knowledge gained from the pollen studies, be these statistical of morphological, or be they concerned with pollen-induced diseases as hayfever, etc., that has purpose and significance.
"In this case the international combining form -logy (English spelling) can hardly be used to denote this science, for the name would be, I suppose, ‘pollinilogy' (cf. polliniferous, pollinization), which is bad.
"To me 'pollen science' (Swedish, 'pollenvetenskap'; German ‘Pollenwissenschaft') and ‘pollen scientific' sound better. Would 'pollen science' be preferable to 'pollen analysis'?" (Ernst Antevs (Feb. 18, 1944)

Sears was so impressed by Antevs' argument that he changed the name of the journal from "Pollen Analysis Circular" to "Pollen Science Circular." (no. 6, p. 3). However, Antevs argument stimulated other comments in Sears' journal, one of which gave the science its current name.

(Pollen Science Circular. 1944. no. 8, p. 6):
THE RIGHT WORD. - "The question raised by Dr. Antevs: ‘Is pollen analysis the proper name for the study of pollen and its applications?' and his suggestion to replace it by ‘pollen science' interests us very much. We entirely agree that a new term is needed but in view of the fact that pollen analysts normally include in their counts the spores of such plants as ferns and mosses we think that some word carrying a wider connotation than pollen seems to be called for. We should therefore suggest palynology from Greek (paluno), to strew or sprinkle; cf. (palé), fine meal; cognate with Latin pollen, flour, dust): the study of pollen and other spores and their dispersal, and applications thereof. We venture to hope that the sequence of consonants p-l-n (suggesting pollen, but with a difference) and the general euphony of the new word may commend it to our fellow workers in this field. We have been assisted in the coining of this new word by Mr. L. J. D. Richardson, M..A., University College, Cardiff." (H. A. Hyde and D. A. Williams, July 15, 1944. Wales)

During the 1950's Antevs health began to fail and he no longer engaged in active field work. He continued to give lectures and attend scientific meetings, and from 1957 onward he was a Research Associate in the Geochronology Laboratories at the University of Arizona, on Tumamoc Hill.

Ernst Valdemar Antevs died on May 19, 1974 after a long illness. Ted Smiley (1974) eulogized Antevs as "Small in stature but large in ability, this man brought an understanding to the chaotic and complex field of research concerning the depositional history of the late- and post- glacial period in the Southwest."

Smiley, T.H. 1974. Memorial to Ernst Valdemar Antevs, 1888-1974. Bulletin Geological Society of America.
Haynes, C. V. 1990. The Antevs-Bryan years and the legacy of Paleoindian geochronology. GSA Special Paper 242.