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Department of Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of human cultures; ethnology deals with the variety of recent and living peoples; archaeology is the study of ancient human cultures. The collections and research of the Museum's Anthropology Department explores these subjects, primarily within western North America. The collections document the diversity and history of American Indian peoples for at least ten thousand years.

General Collections and Research Information

Check out volunteer opportunities with the Collections and Research Division.

  • 20,000 North and South American Indian ethnographic objects
  • 15,000 North American Indian archaeological objects
  • 5,000 Mexican and South American archaeological objects
  • 1,500 African ethnographic objects, especially from southern areas
  • 4,500 Oceanic, Asian, and miscellaneous ethnographic objects
  • 1,000 Classical and miscellaneous archaeological objects
  • 800 fine art objects
  • 500 archival photographs, including the J. H. Bratley Collection

  • Access to collections:
    DMNS permits bona fide researchers to use collections for appropriate study. A Collections and Use Agreement must be completed in advance and approved by the department before access is provided.

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Departmental Initiatives and Highlights

  • Alaska Cave research – The DMNS continues its long tradition of Paleo-Indian research by exploring coastal caves in southeast Alaska, directed by E. James Dixon. This research is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service and is designed to test the hypothesis that humans may have first entered the Americas from Asia along the west coast of North America. Archaeological discoveries are among the most important made in North America in recent years. They include the oldest human remains (approximately 9,800 years old) ever found in Alaska or Canada and the oldest archaeological site (at least 10,300 years old) yet discovered on the Northwest Coast of North America. Research results indicate that humans used watercraft and were fully adapted to marine environments at the end of the last ice age, between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago. The research program reinforces cooperation between local Native American tribes, federal agencies, and scientists, and provides educational opportunities for both non-native and Native American students.

  • Jicarilla Apache ethnography – Joyce Herold's fieldwork with the Jicarilla Apaches of north central New Mexico has established a significant ethnographic collection and archive at DMNS. Currently she is tracing the development of basketry styles and women's clothing, especially the distinctive beaded cape used in powwow and the Jicarilla girls' coming-of-age rite. Herold's survey of Jicarilla Apache realistic artists from 1933 to the present appears in American Indian Art magazine (Spring 1998).

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Each curator pursues his or her own particular research. E. James Dixon specializes in studying the most ancient human cultures, known as Paleo-Indians, in North America. While much of his research centers on the Pacific Islands and coast of Alaska, he also researches sites in Colorado and other parts of western North America. Joyce Herold studies the historically known tribes of the American West and Southwest. Of particular interest to her are basketry artifacts, their production, and the myriad uses of baskets. In addition to examining collections, Herold works with contemporary basket makers to document their craft. Over the past two decades, Herold also has been actively helping the Hmong community that has resettled in the Denver area, to document its material culture through collection, exhibit, and publication.

In addition to research, the Anthropology staff are involved in teaching, writing, and consulting with tribes and other museums as needed.

  • Joyce L. Herold, Curator of Ethnology
    [email protected]
    M.A., 1955, University of Colorado, Boulder
    American Indian ethnology

    Recent publications:
    Havasupai Baskets and Their Makers: 1930-1940
    Dia's Story Cloth

  • E. James Dixon, Curator of Archaeology
    [email protected]
    Ph.D., 1979, Brown University
    North American Paleo-Indian archaeology

    Recent publications:
    Quest for the Origins of the First Americans, University of New Mexico Press (1993)
    Geoarchaeology of Caves and Cave Sediments, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (1997)

  • Jane Stevenson Day, Curator of Latin American Archaeology
    Ph.D., 1984, University of Colorado
    Mesoamerican archaeology

    Recent publications:
    Costa Rica: Art and Archaeology of the Rich Coast
    Nomads of the Russian Steppes
    Aztec: The World of Moctezuma

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Staff and Associates

  • Staff
    • Ryntha Johnson, Collections Manager
      [email protected]
      B.A., 1968, Beloit College
      African, Oceanic, Native American cultures; Precolumbian archaeology

    • Research Associates:
      David Bachman, M.D.
      James Benedict, Ph.D.
      Robert Brunswig, M.A.
      Michael Foster, Ph.D.
      Peter Francis, Jr. M.Div.
      Thomas D. Hamilton, Ph.D.
      Frank Rackerby, M.A.
      Ella M. Ray, Ph.D.
      Terry Reynolds, Ph.D.
      Dennis Stanford, Ph.D.

  • Departmental Associates
    Dia Cha

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Copyright © 1998, DMNS. All rights reserved.