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Cultures of Africa

Africa is the cradleland of humankind.  Fossil remains of the earliest known hominids, close living relatives among forest primates, and exceptional genetic diversity among modern Africans all point to our origin on that continent.  Some of The Field Museum’s archaeological collections from Africa have shaped reconstructions of how the first members of our species made their living.  Contemporary African cultures continue a legacy of social complexity, reflected in the artistic as well as everyday objects in the Museum’s collections. These artifacts continue to provide insights into technology and culture because many are so well documented with contextual information including the collectors’ field notes and photographs of the articles in use.

Cultures of Africa Collections

Photo Archives - Africa Collection

The Field Museum contains one of the finest collections of Cameroon artifacts from the West African grassfields. In the 1920's, Jan Kleykamp, representing the J .F. G. Umlauff Company in Hamburg, sold a collection of artifacts to the Field Museum. The purchase included 332 ethnological photographs taken in 1912 attributed to a man named Schroeder. The Umlauff collection of images illustrate the use and social context of the artifacts.

Africa Collections

The Museum’s collection of material culture from the continent of Africa,  acquired through donations, museum sponsored expeditions, purchases, and exchanges with other museums, includes over 173,000 objects and continues to be an important resource for knowledge, ongoing research, and loan and exhibition.  The African collections are comprised of nearly 30,000 ethnographic and approximately 143,500 archaeological objects.  Africa's complex art, technology, architecture, and political systems are documented both by the Museum's archaeological assemblages and varied historical