Collections

Faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Anthropology engage with materials for research, teaching, and applied work. Some materials are housed at Cal Poly Humboldt and some beyond. This is a working document that reflects our commitments and collections - it will be updated periodically to remain transparent and current.

Materials Maintained by Anthropology at Cal Poly Humboldt:

  1. Teaching collections. The department maintains a variety of collections that are used for teaching and training students. Collections include items such as replicas (copies such as casts) of fossil hominin bones (australopithecines, Neanderthals, etc…); replicas of human and nonhuman skeletal materials used to train students in fields such as evolutionary anatomy, zooarchaeology, and biological anthropology; medical and donated forensic specimens used for teaching advanced courses and training in subjects such as forensics; and replicas of archaeological artifacts made for teaching and made by students.

  2. Temporary collections. The department stores temporary items related to anthropological and archaeological projects. One example includes artifacts and documents from projects that include curation agreements with local agencies and Tribes; these are stored for compliance purposes and to enable completion of contracted work. Typical storage periods range from a few weeks to years. 

  3. Research collections. These include items such as small soil and biological samples (e.g. for isotope analysis) from our international field sites including Belize, Macedonia, and Poland. These materials are primarily for faculty research and training of students, and are held with permission from local and international authorities, collaborators, and, when applicable, communities of origin. Typical storage periods range from a few weeks to years. 

  4. Legacy collectionsThese collections were generated primarily by past faculty and staff – primarily archaeologists working under Anthropology and Native American Studies – both directly and from accepted donations. They became housed in Anthropology as the result of curation agreements. Those confirmed or suspected to Native American in origin are undergoing the process of repatriation to Tribes as per NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA. We have cataloged and organized all items - as of Spring 2023, the collections are composed of 23,079 cultural items, including: stone tools (73 projectile points, 94 simple flake tools, 143 bifaces, 25 formed flaked tools, 40 pieces of groundstone), 221 pieces of faunal (nonhuman animal) bone, and 4796 shell fragments. The remainder (majority) of the collections is most likely debitage – the byproduct produced during the creation of stone tools. There are no human bones or other human remains in the collections. The collections are kept in a secure and climate controlled facility with limited access. All Tribes are welcome to visit our facilities, and we have funding to support visits. View the campus NAGPRA page to learn more about these collections and the process of repatriation. 

Commitments

  1. We commit to working with collections and materials that were gathered in a known and ethical manner. We are committed to consultation with communities of origin and descendant communities.

  2. We recognize that, in the fields in which anthropologists and archaeologists work, historical practices related to collections have caused harm, as do the persistence of problematic practices by some within the discipline. We are committed to the ongoing interrogation and repair of this harm.
  3. We commit to not conduct research on remains or materials affiliated with indigenous Tribes in the USA unless at the request/approval of communities of origin and descendant communities, for example for cultural resources management and the mitigation of inadvertent finds. We echo the AAA's formal apology to Indigenous nations and unequivocally supports NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA - View our NAGPRA page to learn more. 

  4. We commit to hold ourselves to and beyond the highest ethical standards of our disciplines, as outlined in the code of ethics of our fields including the American Association of AnthropologistsSociety for American Archaeology, and the American Association of Biological Anthropologists.

Questions? Please contact the Anthropology Department Chair


We acknowledge that Cal Poly Humboldt is located on the unceded lands of the Wiyot people, where they have resided from time immemorial. We encourage all to gain a deeper understanding of their history and thriving culture. As an expression of our gratitude we are genuinely committed to developing trusting, reciprocal, and long lasting partnerships with the Wiyot people as well as all of our neighboring tribes.