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 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