April 10, 2010


After serving as curator and director of the National Museum of Zambia (1938-1961), J. Desmond Clark came to UC Berkeley in 1961 and for almost thirty years he trained students in anthropology and Old World prehistory.

Prof. Clark was instrumental for increasing the size and scientific value of the Old World prehistoric collections at the PAHMA with assemblages from his research in Africa and Asia and by promoting active programs of exchange with museums in Africa and Europe intended to complement the preexisting collections.

The museum houses assemblages from a few archaeological sites excavated by his students mainly in the early 1970's. Some of these collections were never fully studied and published by their original investigators. This quartzite core is part of a sizable assemblage from an excavation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1971 and 1973. The stone tools were deposited at the museum a few years later with little information as to their provenience, collection methods or field notes. J. Desmond Clark recalls this project in his memoirs*: 

Various sites in the Congo or Rwanda have a longish sequence from the late Acheulean through the Middle Stone Age. One site in the Katanga Province, in Zaire, it was dug by a delightful old French priest, Pere Anciaux de Faveaux, who had found this site and reported on it in the Third Pan-African Congress [...]. He found a very nice Acheulean site at the Pupa River near Katentania on the Biano River, and a student of mine, Carney Schokkenbroek [...] did a very nice excavation of the Acheulean and overlying Lupenbaum following on from what Anciaux did, and she was out there for probably two years, I think, working on those collections, doing the excavation, et cetera, with Anciaux. But she never wrote it up. We were hoping she would write it up, but she seems to have disappeared now.

Perhaps she had disappeared but the stone tools are still in Berkeley.

Hearst Museum # uncatalogued
Dem. Rep. of the Congo; Katanga Prov.; Pupa River near Katentania
Collected by Carney Schokkenbroek, 1973

* J. Desmond Clark, "An Archaeologist at Work in African Prehistory and Early Human Studies: Teamwork and Insight," an oral history conducted in 2000-2001 by Timothy Troy, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2002.

April 5, 2010

Neanderthal flint

Dorothy A.E. Garrod was the first woman (1939) to be elected Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge. Her career started in the early 1920's and brought her from Gibraltar, to the east Mediterranean, to Kurdistan. 

Arguably, her most important achievement in the field is the excavation at Mount Carmel where, among thousands of stone tools, she recovered the first Neanderthal burials outside Europe. During the 1931 season Garrod was assisted by Theodore D. McCown, a PhD student at UC Berkeley, who later served as a curator for the museum between 1947 and 1957.

The excavation of the Mt. Carmel caves lasted a few years and the results were published in a large volume in 1939. As was customary for those times, the lithic collections were then split among numerous institutions around the world. Here is a list of all the places one should travel if interested in these assemblages.

Through the study of the skeletal remains and animal bones, Garrod and McCown offered early reconstructions of the changes in the environment from the Middle Paleolithic to the early Neolithic in the Near East.  Reporting on their findings in 1934, The Pittsburgh Press points out that the region was home to the Neanderthals from the early Mousterian until their final demise. The short article doesn't provide any details as to how or why the brutes went eventually extinct but it offers an interesting choice of words to describe their character while they were alive and roaming around: Neanderthals were uncouth and clumsy
Think twice before inviting a Neanderthal to a formal dinner: they will probably show up unshaved, half naked, and they will leave all their food scraps on your floor.

Hearst Museum # 9-1286
Acheuleo-Mousterian flint
Palestine; Mt. Carmel region; Tabun Cave; Wady el-Mughara
Collected by Dorothy A.E. Garrod, 1932-1933

April 1, 2010


For the last few months the Hearst Museum of Anthropology has been in the process of moving a substantial portion of the collections out of one storage area that was recently sold by the University. One of the last pieces we moved was a 39.1ft. (11.9 m.) totem pole from British Columbia. The totem was originally erected around 1870 for a Haida man named Haostis and his wife K'awa; it was brought to the museum in 1911. During the moving process the totem was temporarily unwrapped and almost fully visible for the first time in 36 years; since it was removed from the museum's patio in 1974.

Totem poles served the purpose of illustrating particular events in the history of the owner's family and its rights over the land. They were also erected to commemorate deceased members of the family or household. What follows is what a Tlingit elder told the museum curators in 1964:
"This is a Grizzly bear pole. Head with Raven coming out of mouth refers to a story of a man who told a lie for gain. Putting the leg or foot of upper figure in ears of major heads is a Haida idea. Man at bottom in bears' grasp is a deceased relative; hat indicates social status. Bird at top of pole is a Raven"

Almost all totem poles display the crests of one or more families connected with the owner. This particular specimen has a grizzly bear (for Haostis) and a frog (for K'awa).

Frogs are ubiquitous in the art from the Northwest Coast though, at the time the totem was carved, they appeared to be a quite uncommon figure of the Queen Charlotte Islands landscape. The Haida have an explanation for this phenomenon that it is not what a biology journal would publish but it is a much better story to read to kids before they go to bed. James Deans recorded the story in 1870.

Hearst Museum #2-10723
Totem pole (detail)
British Columbia; east coast of Queen Charlotte Is.
Collected by C.F. Newcombe, 1910