Archaeology Collection

Archaeology Collections (2021-02-10)

Naturalist William MacMillan reported to the University Board of Trustees in 1831 that his initial collecting efforts, intended to develop the basis for a University museum, had allowed him to procure “two Indian arrow heads of flint, very ancient” and “one pipe with two holes for smoking, also Indian”. MacMillan proposed that the future museum include a collection of “antiquities… to be those of this state principally of the Indians, and also those from foreign parts, particularly of Egypt”.

Nearly two centuries from this small start, the University of Alabama Museums’ Archaeology Collection has grown to include hundreds of thousands of artifacts, objects, and specimens. The current archaeological holdings are geographically focused on Alabama and the Southeastern United States, with additional material from other areas of the continental United States and from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Temporally and thematically, the collections cover the entirety of human occupation in the region from the earliest recorded cultures to the mid-to-late 20th century. Strengths of the collection include materials from the Mississippian culture of the Black Warrior Valley and surrounding area (centered on the archaeological site at Moundville), as well as materials from the Tennessee Valley as collected under the CCC and WPA in conjunction with the development of the TVA.

The Archaeology Collection is housed in the Erskine Ramsay Archaeological Repository, part of the David L. DeJarnette Research Center at Moundville Archaeological Park (which also houses the University Museums’ Office of Archaeological Research). The Repository, originally built in 1947, is one of the region’s major archaeological curation facilities, and has provided curation services to federal, state and local authorities as well as corporate institutions and private cultural resource management firms since 1984. The Erskine Ramsay Repository meets or exceeds the standards for curation of archaeological collections as set forth by the National Park Service and the United States Department of the Interior (36 CFR 79), and all accessioned collections, whether University-owned or deposited by outside organizations, are curated to those same standards.

Organized and accessioned by site and research project, the curated material comprises 3905 accessioned sub-collections amounting to 778,767 lots of material, almost 700 linear feet of associated documentation and records, and 387,456 photographic images in various media (photographic negatives, slides, and digital files).