The over 31,000 objects stewarded by the Peabody Museum reflect African expressive culture and range in date from the earliest stone tools made by modern humans from Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania to twentieth century objects created by makers in Liberia, southern Cameroon, and Uganda. The collection also offers researchers ways to examine the diverse expressions of African peoples through archaeological, ethnographic and photographic materials. Nearly half of the collections are ethnographic, including nineteenth-century materials acquired from other institutions over the years and early-twentieth-century materials compiled by researchers and collectors. The ethnographic collections contain sculpture, beadwork, textiles, divination tools and power objects that signify status, age grade initiations, as well as ritual and healing traditions. These objects along with the archaeological and photographic collections communicate information about traditional practices, colonialism, trade, warfare and socio-political development on the continent.
Collections from the region commonly referred to as the Middle East are represented in both the continents of Asia and Africa. Other collections from the Middle Eastern region can also be found at the neighboring Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East
Kuba raffia pile-cloth from the Congo region of Africa (formerly Zaire), Gift of Mrs. George Howe, A. C. Coolidge, and Oric Bates, 17-41-50/B2047
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Highlights from the African Collections
Collections from the Kalahari Desert region of southern African, including the photographic and ethnographic materials acquired during the Marshall Family Expeditions 1950-1961John Marshall with Ju/’hoan men and camera equipment in Namibia 1957-58. Gift of Laurence K. Marshall and Lorna J. Marshall, 2001.29.254
Ethnographic collections from Liberia, notably a large set of Liberian masks, acquired by medical missionary and Peabody Museum associate George Harley between 1920 and 1950Mano wooden mask from Liberia. Museum Purchase, Museum Improvements-Collections Fund, 37-77-50/2791
Egyptian and Nubian archaeological and osteological collections excavated in the early 1900s by George Reisner, sometimes referred to as the “father of American Egyptology”Predynastic black-topped ceramic jar from Mesaid (Mesa'eed) tomb 344, Egypt. Museum Purchase, 14-63-50/B308
An impressive collection of Kuba Royal arts and textiles from the Kasai Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.Face mask with cloth hood Bushoong carver and tailor, Kuba Group, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1880s. Gift of Mrs. George Howe, A. C. Coolidge, and Oric Bates, 17-41-50/B1908. Learn more about this mask.