Archaeology and Ethnographic Collections

The Michigan State University collections holding unit for archaeological and ethnographic materials is at the MSU Museum, which is broadly subsumed under Cultural Collections, but more specifically under the auspices of the Division of Anthropology.  William Lovis, Professor in the Department of Anthropology, is also Curator of Anthropology at the MSU Museum, and acts as a conduit for collections access for research, teaching, and exhibition purposes.  Collections are housed in multiple campus locations including the Consortium for Archaeological Research at McDonel Hall, and the MSU Museum Cultural Collections Center, and are cyclically exhibited in the MSU Museum.

The MSU Museum holds extensive systematic ethnographic collections from various parts of Asia and Africa, as well as indigenous North American holdings – particularly in the realm of basketry and textiles.  Significant among the ethnographic collections are Turkana material culture that has been documented and collected by Professor Emeritus of Anthropology Lawrence Robbins, and equally well documented ethnographic materials collected from Somalian nomads by Dr. James Ellison, a former undergraduate anthropology major.

The MSU Museum archaeological collections are focused on the Great Lakes region, particularly Michigan, and are the result of 60 years of research activity that has been carried out by MSU Museum curators and Anthropology Department faculty.  Systematic research collections from major excavations available for use by application from qualified researchers include numerous sites from the Saginaw River drainage basin, the upper Grand River system, and the northwest lower peninsula of Michigan, dating as early as 10,000 years ago through the contact and American periods of the 19th century.  Of particular interest are the growing collections from research on the MSU campus.

The regional research collections from northern lower Michigan consist of numerous sites from the Traverse Corridor and Inland Waterway Archaeological Projects.  These sites date from late Paleo Indian in age, ca. 10,000 years ago, through European contact, and have formed the core of several dissertations and theses.  The Saginaw drainage basin collections are the result of ongoing MSU Museum and Department of Anthropology engagement since the late 1960s, primarily by Professor Lovis, and have contributed substantially to our knowledge of early horticulture and the onset of maize intensification in the region.  The archaeological collections also hold regional survey data of varying intensity and spatial focus.

Interested individuals should contact Dr. William Lovis for collections access.

Bioarchaeology Collections

The Mis Island Nubian Bioarchaeological Collection is on long-term loan to Michigan State University from the British Museum for research and documentation. It is comprised of the skeletal remains of 408 medieval period individuals excavated on Mis Island by the Sudan Archaeological Research Society and the British Museum prior to dam construction along the Nile in Northern Sudan, during field seasons 2004-2007. Only one other medieval community (Kulubnarti) has been excavated in this region. Research on this new collection from Mis Island will contribute to a more holistic picture of life in medieval Nubia over time.