Collections

The Stanford Archaeology Center cares for a large collection of archaeological and anthropological artifacts collected by the University since its founding in 1891. The materials consist of museum-style collections of artifacts from all around the world as well as systematically excavated field collections from Stanford lands and the wider Bay Area. 

Many of the original artifacts in the collection were once held in the Stanford Museum, which was founded in conjunction with the University to house the collections of historical and cultural material collected by the Stanford family. Following her son Leland Junior’s death, Jane Stanford travelled extensively, adding to the collections as she went. Among many other things she acquired large numbers of stone tools including collections from Paleolithic and Neolithic Egypt, Neolithic Denmark, India and the Mississippian Midwest. She also bought other Egyptian antiquities and collections of ethnographic material from the Pacific Islands and Americas. Following these original foundations the Museum expanded the collections throughout the mid twentieth century and added extensively from donations by private collectors and alumni. Whilst many regions of the world are represented, the collections are particularly strong in Pre-Columbian and southwestern ceramics, and ethnographic materials from Brazil, California and the Pacific Northwest.

By the end of the twentieth century much of the archaeology and anthropology collections of the University were transferred out of the Museum to the care of the Anthropology Department where they could be used more directly in teaching and research. Today these collections are curated by the Archaeology Center and form an active part of the Center’s teaching curriculum. Artifacts are used in lectures and lab sessions, independent student research projects, and student developed exhibitions and displays. Materials from the collection are also used in outreach projects to local schools and community groups. Among other projects, local elementary school children take part in a simulated dig experience where Stanford students teach the children to excavate artifacts from a semi-permanent trench before analyzing them during a lab session.

For more information about the archaeology collections at Stanford University please contact the Archaeology Center. We regret that we are only able to answer enquiries regarding material in or relating to Stanford's collections and are unable to perform general object identifications or valuations.