Archaeological Collections

Archaeological Collections
"Archaeological items are derived from below-ground archaeology sites (although many of these items were disturbed from their in situ positions and brought to the surface via natural and human phenomena such as hurricanes, floods, field plowing and building activities. The vast majority of these are nonperishable items, such as stone tools and clay pottery fragments. Perishable materials made from wood, antler, bone, shell or textiles are rarely found in archaeological contexts, due to the acidic soils and temperate climatic conditions of our Northeastern environments (although some sites in the semi-arid Southwest do yield such perishables)." (Lucianne Lavin PhD., IAIS Director of Research & Collections)

The archaeological collection of the Institute for American Indian Studies features over 300,000 artifacts representing 1,300 New England Native American archaeology sites. Professional archaeological excavations by IAIS staff from 1970 - 1992 generated the majority of these collections, while a number of collections were acquired from avocational archaeologists. These were accepted by the Collections Committee for their significance to New England archaeology. They include sites with exceptional preservation of cultural remains; long destroyed sites, the only existing evidence for which are the amateur collections; and/or sites containing rare or unique items providing evidence of prehistoric aesthetics and spirituality very seldom found in New England.

The collections span over 12,000 years of indigenous history, including the objects from the oldest known site in Connecticut - the Templeton site in Washington (6LF21), radiocarbon-dated to 10,190 years before the present. Every cultural period of indigenous history is represented in these collections, including the colonial and federalist periods of Euro-American contact and settlement. Their objects represent the diverse histories of the many Native American communities that have occupied - and in some cases still do occupy - the landscape of New England. These archaeological collections have enormous historical significance. The great majority of the sites from which they were retrieved have been destroyed by urban development, suburban sprawl, river erosion, floods, and rising sea levels. The only remains of their occupants' culture are the items in our collection.

Expanded Archaeological Collection highlights coming soon!