February 5, 2010

African beads

Regarding Old World archaeology, African assemblages (including the Reisner Egyptian collection) constitute the largest part of the museum holdings. The bulk of it was deposited at the museum between the mid fourties and the mid seventies. One of the earliest major collection is the University of California African Expedition directed by Frank E. Peabody in 1947. A second expedition with Charles L. Camp followed in 1948. They excavated extensively at a number of important sites in South Africa; places like Gladysvale Cave, Witkrans, Powerhouse Cave. Although the team focus was on the Early Stone Age, thousands of artifacts come from later periods. I spent a good part of the Summer 2009 re-housing these early, well-documented, collections. Here are some perforated beads from the rock shelter of Little Witkrans.

Hearst Museum # 5-2822
Ostrich egg shell beads; Wilton culture
South Africa; Cape Province; Taungs Area; Little Witkrans Shelter
Collected by UC African Expedition, Frank E. Peabody, Sept. 7, 1947

February 4, 2010

A collector box

This small collector box is one of the first objects that I noticed early in the inventory process. The small label reads "Relics of Swiss Lake Dwellers" and it was donated to the museum by the UCB Paleontology Department. No further geographic details are provided and the collection date is uncertain. The catalogue card reads 1963 in parenthesis but it seems to me that the small archaeological sample was assembled years earlier. The box contains "carbonized seeds, apple and incised potsherd". Perhaps it was one of the earliest comparative collections of the Paleontology Department or perhaps it was donated to members of the department by a collector or another institution. I'm not too hopeful to find out more about it.

Many years ago, my parents took me to visit a museum dedicated to prehistoric lake dwellings in Trentino region. Probably I didn't think to become an archaeologist during that visit but the reconstructed dwellings, the excavation and the exhibit certainly made an impression on me. When I was studying in college I learned that lake villages are rather ubiquitous in the Veneto region - where I'm from -. This object makes me think of my hometown.

Hearst Museum # 7-3793
Box labeled "Relics of Swiss Lake Dwellers"; contains carbonized seeds, apple and incised potsherd.
Switzerland; unspecified
Collected by the Paleontology Department, 1963