A deer in Adirondack Hall

Research & Collections :: Collections at the State Museum :: Anthropology
Curatorial Staff

    The rim  of a prehistoric pot
The Archaeology Collections
The archaeology collections include approximately 2 million items of Native and Euro-American manufacture. These collections are primarily from New York, documenting thousands of years of human history in the state, and collected as a result of 150 years of research. They contain materials and associated data from at least 11,000 years of occupation in the region.

The vast assemblages of stone tools, ceramics, bone and shell ornaments, metal ornaments and implements, trade goods such as glass beads and fabrics; animal and plant remains, soil, pollen, and charcoal samples, and the records of their discovery, serve as a foundation for ongoing study of little-known periods of New York's past.

The archaeological collections continue to expand due to donations and staff research. Since 1965, a growing amount of material of historical Euroamerican origin has been added to the collection as a result of fieldwork by the in-house Cultural Resource Survey Program staff, representing 17th through early 20th century New York colonial and post-colonial history.

Jacks's Reef Corner-Notched projectile point of a Jasper New York Projectile Points
Former State Archaeologist William A. Ritchie’s seminal Typology and Nomenclature for New York Projectile Points (1961, revised 1971) remains a basic reference for Northeastern archaeologists. This on-line version of the publication adds color images of selected artifacts to accompany Ritchie’s original text and plates, providing an updated gallery of projectile point type examples from the New York region.

    Iroquois cradleboard

The Ethnographic Collection
The ethnographic collection is most notable for objects obtained from the Iroquois and other Eastern Woodland tribes during the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the seminal Lewis Henry Morgan Collection of mid-19th century Iroquois material culture. Articles such as costumes, tools, basketry, silverwork, and woodcarving have been loaned for long-term exhibit to several Iroquois community museums. We continue to collect today from contemporary Native American artists, as exemplified by The Governor's Collection of Contemporary Native American Crafts. Such objects are studied not only by scholars, but by artists, craftspeople, and others including both Native Americans and non-Native Americans. The collection also includes a large number of baskets from southeastern and western tribes, beaded materials from the Apache and Plains Indians, and weapons and hunting equipment from native peoples throughout the world.

Illustrations from Morgan Collection
The Lewis Henry Morgan Collection of Mid-Nineteenth Century Iroquois Objects
was made by Morgan between 1849 and 1850 for the Historical and Antiquarian Collection of the New York State Cabinet of Natural History, which was to become the New York State Museum (NYSM).

Governor's Collection The Governor's Collection of Contemporary Native American Crafts is a collaborative effort between the New York State Museum and Native American communities to create a collection of contemporary crafts representing the living culture and thriving art of Native People's of New York.

Human Osteology
The human osteology collection includes skeletal remains of approximately 1250 individuals, of which approximately 85% are identifiable as Native American. These remains are a unique source of information about the lives of past people for whom no records exist. Studies of diet, nutrition, disease, injury, and behavior contribute to an understanding of the impact of lifestyle on health in the past, as well as today. Some items in these collections are of a highly sensitive nature. Access to items subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which provides for potential repatriation of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to affiliated tribes, may be restricted.

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