We curate and research the archaeological and ethnographic material residues of the African continent, the birthplace of our genus and species.
The African collections number over 6000 specimens from across the continent – Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, the Comoros, DRC, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland and Uganda. The collection also includes Paleolithic archaeological materials from the adjacent Near East. Materials include flaked stone, bone, horn, eggshell, marine and freshwater shell, mineral pigments, glass, ceramic, wood, iron and other metals.
These specimens sample the full span of human technological evolution, from heavy-duty butchery tools used 2 million years ago by early members of our genus, to thin-walled pottery produced by complex hunter-fisher-gatherers in early Holocene, to multi-material ceremonial masks made and used by contemporary peoples.
Curator Brian Stewart’s research in southern Africa’s highlands and deserts aims to reconstruct the selective contexts in which early modern humans developed the social, technological and logistical strategies necessary for inhabiting marginal environments. He and his students, who participate in active research projects in Africa but also other regions of the Paleolithic world, share the common goal of understanding the affects of long-term human-environment interactions on cultural developments and diversity.
If you are interested in conducting research on our collections, please contact Dr. Brian Stewart via email bastew[at]umich.edu or by phone (734) 763-9864