Archaeology Collections

The KU Biodiversity Institute Archaeology collections are among the largest research collections located in the central North American Great Plains.

Given the nature of archaeological assemblages, which often include thousands of pieces of debitage, fragmented animal bone, and large amounts of wood charcoal, it is difficult to establish a precise count.  Instead, the estimate provides a good measure of the 5,500 cubic feet of artifact collections and associated records. These collections comprise one of the largest of prehistoric and historic artifacts within the state of Kansas and include some of the best North American Central Plains systematic materials from late Paleoindian, Archaic, and Kansas City Hopewell sites. Learn more about the History of the KU Archaeology Collections

Collections Policies

All loan requests should be sent to the Collections Manager, Kara Kelly. When requesting federal collections, the federal agency will also need to approve the request. Loan requests should be sent in written format on the requesting institutions letterhead and include the following: Requestor, reason for the loan, amount of time the loan is being requested for and a detailed list of the site/catalog numbers being requested. Student requests should be accompanied by a faculty letter of support.

Destructive sampling of an object/s in the collection is only permitted with prior approval. Destructive sampling includes any activity that removes part of the object or changes the object in any way, including sampling by way of aqueous solution/sonic bath processing. A request to destructively sample an object/s should be submitted to the Collections Manager on institution letterhead and should include information about the objective of the analysis, methodology, object/s catalog numbers, site numbers, laboratory conducting the analysis and a description of the overall project. Student requests must be accompanied by a faculty letter of support.

Access to collections for student tours, public tours or in-person research can be made by contacting the Collections Manager.

Unscheduled tours are not available. Scheduled tours for student or public tours can be made in advance. For additional information and forms to schedule a tour, please visit the museum’s Collection Tours page

Donation offers are considered on an individual basis. A number of factors are taken into account when considering donations, including the legality of the object/s, the condition of the object/s, the input of descendant communities and whether the object/s support the Biodiversity Institute’s mission and values. The KUBI archaeology collection does not accept human remains or collections with restrictions.

Collection Highlights by Region

University of Kansas mascot, the Jayhawk.

North American Plains Collection

The North American Great Plains covers approximately 1.6 million km2 and encompasses a variety of natural environments. With over 15,000 years of human occupation, diversity in cultural expressions and adaptations is well recorded.
University of Kansas mascot, the Jayhawk.

U.S. Southwest Collection

The American Southwest includes regions within the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Colorado and the states of Sonora and Chihuahua in northern Mexico.
central american pottery

Central America Collection

The Central American collection consists of over 360 ceramics and approximately 75 lithic artifacts from the countries of Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua.
south american pottery

South America Collection

The South America collection consists of over 85 ceramics and lithic artifacts from Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. Fewer numbers of artifacts come from Venezuela and Brazil.

Collection Highlights by Region

mesoamerican artifact

Mesoamerica Collection

The Mesoamerican collections consist of both systematically excavated and donated materials. Mesoamerica includes the countries of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and various islands.
hand axe

Old World Collection

Collections that originated in the Old World (Europe, Asia and Northern Africa) consist of items donated to the University of Kansas
University of Kansas mascot, the Jayhawk.

3D Imaging

3D models created via Laser Scanning done through the Imaging Center.