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The Anthropology Department of the Dayton Society of Natural History curates a highly diverse collection of objects numbering well over 1,400,000 items. Anthropology is the study of people and as a scientific discipline, it includes the fields of cultural anthropology/ethnology, physical or biological anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics.
Our department’s research focus is primarily archaeological with a focus on the prehistory of southwest Ohio. One way to understand cultures is to study the objects that people make, whether these objects are ancient spear points from Ohio, an ocarina (flute) from South America, or Kente cloth from Ghana.
Our Anthropology Collection consists of ethnographic and archaeological specimens from around the world and throughout recorded and unrecorded history. The majority of the collection is archaeological in nature, consisting of stone tools, pottery, and organic materials collected during the Museum's five decades of archaeological research in the Miami Valley area. Other items in the Anthropology Collection include materials made and used by Native American peoples across what is now the United States, as well as objects utilized by non-Western cultures across the globe.
Highlights of the collection
The Anthropology Collection is the largest of the Dayton Society of Natural History collections, though museum collections can never be more than a tiny sample of what exists (or existed) in the world. Our collection consists primarily of donated objects from local citizens and as such reflects the interests and destinations of the larger Miami Valley community. We curate items that citizens have obtained through travel, military service, missionary work, and business partnerships, as well as items that may have been handed down for generations within a family. We do not have all areas of the world represented equally in our collection and there is great variety in what types of objects we have from one region to the next. Our collection includes clothing, musical instruments, weapons, jewelry, tools, ornaments, and other types of materials. We serve as a permanent repository for the community, reflecting the continually changing interests and ethnicity of our residents.