Archaeology

Painted basket inside of Sunset Red bowl, Sinagua, PIII A1596

Painted basket inside of Sunset Red bowl, Sinagua, PIII
A1596

The Archaeology Collection

The MNA Archaeological Collections contains artifacts from all over the Colorado Plateau, and is particularly strong in holdings from northern Arizona. MNA’s site file system documents more than 30,000 archaeological sites and nearly 100 years of systematic field research.  Nearly 90 percent of the Archaeological Collection comes from federal, tribal, and state lands, including lands managed by the National Park Service (Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, Petrified Forest, etc.), Forest Service (Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves national forests), Bureau of Reclamation (Glen Canyon Project), Bureau of Indian Affairs (Navajo and Hopi), Office of Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation, Bureau of Land Management, Salt River Project, and the Arizona State Land Department.

MNA manages these holdings in compliance with Federal curation regulations (36 CFR Part 79) and serves as a repository for archaeological material from northern Arizona.  For more information or to seek repository services, please see our Curation Services page.

MNA’s holdings include many kinds of artifacts produced by the ancestors of Colorado Plateau Native American tribes. Archaeological cultures represented include ancestral Puebloan (sometimes known as Anasazi), Mogollon, Sinagua, Cohonina, early Navajo, and Patayan.

The Museum of Northern Arizona is well known for its work on prehistoric ceramic typology and its series of ceramic field identification manuals. Dr. Harold S. Colton and Dr. Lyndon S. Hargrave designed the MNA Ceramic Ware and Type classification system to facilitate consistent in-field identification of pottery vessels and fragments in terms of approximate age, technology, and cultural affiliation. MNA’s pottery type specimen collection, founded in 1932, documents previous research on Southwestern pottery and facilitates ongoing archaeological research. Archaeologists still use this typology today to answer important questions, including “how old is it?” and “where was it made?” Today, the ceramic repository contains over 16,000 sherds and hundreds of whole or partially reconstructed vessels from all over the Southwest. MNA hosts pottery conferences periodically, and publishes field manuals as funding permits.

Highlights of the archaeological collection include:

Diagnostic Artifacts (57,000 artifacts)

  • Stone tools including over 10,000 projectile points (spear and arrow points).
  • Ornaments in stone, bone and shell, including beads, pendants, and mosaic pieces.
  • Bone tools including scrapers, needles, and awls.
  • Sandals, baskets, textiles, and matting fragments including rare painted basket fragments.
  • Unusually large pots and baskets from Tim's Cave in Oak Creek Canyon [LINK to description, see Plan Your Visit-Exhibitions-Tim’s Cave]
  • Ceramic vessels (over 4,700) organized by Colton's ceramic typology (ware, series, and type).
  • Ceramic Type Sherds (over 16,000 sherds representing over 800 ceramic types).  MNA’s collections are particularly strong in Sinagua, Kayenta, and Little Colorado pottery traditions.
  • Archaic period split twig animal figurines from the Grand Canyon and Walnut Canyon.

Original dry fresco mural paintings (5) from the Peabody Museum’s 1930s excavations at Awat’ovi and Kawayka’a and a complete set of 194 mural reproductions.

Boxed collections with over 168,000 cataloged specimens and lots and 17,296 cubic feet of ceramic sherds, chipped and ground stone artifacts,  ecofacts  (such as pollen, flotation, faunal and flora remains, and  C14 samples).