The Museum of Anthropological Archaeology is a research and collection museum within the College of Literature, Science and the Arts focused on the study of humanity's past. Since its founding in 1922, the Museum has been dedicated to research, teaching, and the curation of anthropological collections from around the globe. Today, the Museum's collections include more than three million archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, comparative specimens, and associated documentation derived from more than a century of scientific research conducted across the globe. The Museum’s curators, research staff, and associated graduate and undergraduate students conduct archaeological research in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The Museum's mission integrates leading-edge research, teaching, and dissemination with collection care and curation.
One role of Anthropology is the explanation of cultural similarities and differences. An important goal of Anthropological Archaeology is to explain the similarities and differences in ancient societies. For the centuries before written history, archaeology is our only source of information on society and culture.
Over the years, our archaeological faculty has uncovered many of the differences that made each ancient society unique, as well as widespread regularities in the way societies grow, develop, and change. These discoveries have made it possible to generate hypotheses for ancient cultural and social behavior.
Our Museum has investigated the behavioral differences between Neanderthals and archaic modern humans; the social and economic strategies of hunters and gatherers; the transition from foraging to agriculture and animal domestication; the establishment of village life; the shift from egalitarian societies to those based on hereditary differences in rank; the creation of archaic states and empires; and the impact of Western colonialism on non-Western societies.
One product of our Museum’s research is a series of collections of artifacts, plant and animal remains, geological and radiocarbon samples, and other objects. While we are committed to curating these materials, we do not see them as ends in themselves. Rather, they serve as (1) the forensic evidence of past societies; (2) teaching aids for the education of students and the training of future archaeologists; and (3) sources of data for primary research on issues pertaining to anthropological archaeology.
The five most important parts of our Museum’s mission, therefore, are as follows:
1. Conducting original research that extends the boundaries of our field.
2. Making our teaching as innovative as possible.
3. Turning our graduate students into the next generation of outstanding archaeologists.
4. Using our Museum’s laboratories to provide undergraduates with their first hands-on encounters with science.
5. Preserving the objects in our various collections to the best of our abilities, so that future generations can learn from them.