Archaeological Collections

  • A huge Early Stone Age collection gathered mainly by the late Professor Oliver Davies. He published information on this material in a range of archaeological journals, including the Annals of the Natal Museum.
  • Middle Stone Age material consisting mostly of surface artefacts, but with the notable exception of the Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter assemblage recovered by Jonathan Kaplan and published in the Natal Museum Journal of Humanities.
  • A Later Stone Age collection generated principally from excavations, especially those by Aron Mazel in the Thukela Basin (see papers in the Natal Museum journals). Through its collection and research, the Natal Museum led southern African archaeology towards a more socially-nuanced understanding of the past. The Later Stone Age collection also includes painted Bushman art removed from Bamboo Mountain, The Meads and other Drakensberg rock art sites.
  • The Bushman Rock Art archive, which is the largest museum-based rock art archive in the country. The department houses a collection of over 370 copies of Bushman art, including many made by Patricia Vinnicombe - some of which she published in her book "People of the Eland". Also in this collection are some of the earliest surviving copies of paintings in the Natal Drakensberg, made by Mark and Graham Hutchinson, in the 1880s. The archive also contains data from over 700 sites with around 30 000 photographic and copied images, many from painting sites in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Site. The entire rock art archive is currently (2006/7) being digitised by the South African Rock Art Digital Archive (SARADA), based at the University of the Witwatersrand.
  • An Early Iron Age collection - through its collection and research in this field, the Natal Museum has made the greatest single contribution world-wide to knowledge of precolonial African farmers. The collection includes excavated material and data from six key sites, the analysis of which yielded numerous popular and academic publications (see the Natal Museum journals).
  • The Late Iron Age collection includes material derived from excavations, examples of Iron Age rock engravings and photographs, and copies of rock engravings. Tim Maggs has published much of this data in the Natal Museum journals.
  • Sixteenth-century Portuguese shipwreck material, which specifically includes material from the São João (1552, Port Edward), the São Bento (1554, Msikaba river mouth) and the Santiago (1585, Bassas da India, Mozambique Channel). Details on the shipwrecks appear in the Annals of the Natal Museum and elsewhere.
  • We are currently establishing Southern Africa's first database of replicated and ancient use traces, including residues, microwear and macro-fractures - for the interpretation of precolonial material culture.
  • A limited collection of Roman and classical artefacts.

Please contact Gavin Whitelaw for further information on these collections.

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