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      Kincaid Figure   What Objects Make Up the Anthropology Collection?

The Illinois State Museum cares for a collection of more than 7.5 million artifacts or parts of artifacts, most of them uncovered by Museum scientists during excavations of Native American sites

Examples of specimens (natural objects) in the collection are minerals, plant remains, and animal bones. Examples of artifacts (human-made objects) are pottery, spear points, beads, and baskets. Specimens and artifacts are found in archaeological sites of both Native American and early explorer and pioneer settlements.

What the Objects Tell Us

The objects recovered in archaeological excavations are important for the information they supply about how the early peoples of Illinois lived. Many different types of scientists must work together. For example, 

  • botanists identify plant remains that tell us what plant resources were available for food and medicine and for making things.
  • zoologists identify animal bones and shells that tell us what animals foods were available and in some cases, what tools were made from them.  
  • ethnographers look at human-made objects like baskets and pottery, and decorations on them that may be clues to the beliefs of the people who made them. 
  • Geologists tell us what the land where people lived was like at various periods of time.
How the Objects are Used

This information is used in creating exhibits that reconstruct life as it may have been for peoples of the past. There are no photographs of prehistoric life, so the scientists put details together to give us images of what earlier cultures were like.

The scientific information also provides the basis for Museum research, publications, lectures, and other educational programs. The information goes into databases that can be used by scientists from all over the world.


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