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Collection objects bring World Archaeology to life

Collection objects bring World Archaeology to life

by Louise Furey - Tuesday, 20 May 2014

For a day in early April the auditorium lobby was turned into a temporary classroom to give students from the University of Auckland’s World Archaeology course an opportunity to encounter objects commonly seen only in text books.

Students were divided into groups to examine objects. Course tutor Seth Quintus is at far right.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Approximately 200 students came to the Museum in groups through the day to look at specially selected objects and collections of objects from the Archaeology Collection of the Auckland Museum. The lecturer, Professor Peter Sheppard, wanted the students to encounter objects more commonly seen in text books, to get a sense of scale and proportion of objects and to look at details often obscured in photographs.

Students identifying and classifying objects: Greeco-Roman lamps, African hand axes, hafts of antler horn from Swiss Lake Villages.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

A range of material from the Archaeology Collection was selected by Professor Sheppard, course tutors Josh Emmitt and Seth Quintus, and Archaeology Curator Louise Furey, to represent Old and New World archaeology, as well as the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods.

Stone projectile points or arrow heads from the United States.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Students were able to view the artefacts set out in specially organised boxes, and discuss different ways to classify the diverse material – a process routinely followed by archaeologists and others studying material culture. This was a more pertinent form of learning than just reading textbooks.

The students were also given a brief introduction to the Museum collections, collectors, and the ways in which some of our collections were acquired. Objects included some of the earliest form of stone tools, hand axes from Africa and Europe, Palaeolithic art and casts of the “venus figurines” from northern Europe, blade tools from the Fayum area of Egypt, bone and stone tools from the Neolithic Swiss Lakes farming villages, figurines from Meso America and pottery vessels and projectile points from the southwestern United States.

Ceramic heads from the pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacan, Mexico.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

The students will be given another class project later in the semester, when they have to return to the Museum independently, and find objects on display in any gallery that fit in with themes discussed in lectures such as power in society, trade, conflict and agricultural development.

While this was an experimental approach, the visit has been successful and made accessible some of our less frequently used collections. It is an example of the practical application of the Memorandum of Understanding between Auckland Museum and the University of Auckland. It is also part of the growing collaboration between the Museum and the Anthropology Department, developing on from the research partnership on the Great Mercury Island Ahuahu Archaeological Project.

  • Post by: Louise Furey

    Dr Louise Furey is the E. E. Vaile Curator of Archaeology at Auckland Museum. Louise has been an archaeologist for 35 years and has carried out site assessments and archaeological excavations in the upper North Island. She holds an MA (Hons) and a Doctorate of Science degree from the University of Auckland.

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