Anthropology and Archaeology Resources | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

<p>All hands on deck! Staff from the Anthropology and Archaeology departments transport an artifact.  </p>
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Most Frequently Asked Question


Can you authenticate and appraise the value of my artifact?


The Museum is a nonprofit foundation and Museum employees are prohibited from authenticating and/or appraising the value of artifacts and specimens. Appraisals can be obtained from private dealers and auction houses. You can also try to find an appraiser through the American Society of Appraisers at

Anthropology (Archaeology & Ethnology) Contact Information

The following list reflects the order in which we would prefer to be contacted for general inquiries.

KT Hajeian
Collections Manager - Ethnology
(213) 763-3452

Chris Coleman
Collections Manager - Archaeology
(213) 763-3449

Dr. Amy Gusick
Associate Curator
(213) 763-3370

Currently on exhibit from our collections...

Find highlights from our Latin American collection in the Visible Vault and come marvel at the wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes in our Zuni Fetishes exhibit case!

Want to see more?  Look for special events like the Curator's Cupboard, where we bring interesting items out of our storerooms to share wiith visitors.

Curator’s Cupboards

These special weekend events are your chance to meet members of our curatorial team, ask your own questions, and get a first-hand, up-close look at many amazing curiosities of our collections that aren’t on display. Learn more >

Native American Masterpieces

This gallery features items purchased by Curator Emeritus of Anthropology, Dr. Margaret Hardin. These items were purchased with funds from the Hearst Foundation set aside for the acquisition of contemporary Native American art for the Museum’s collection. Dr. Hardin has used the guidance of her past fieldwork at the Pueblo Zuni in New Mexico, the expertise gained curating the Times Mirror Hall of Native American Cultures (1992-2006), and her keen eye for artistic aesthetics to select beautiful representative creations from some of the finest artists in the country.

View Gallery >


Anthropology Resources

View the Collections >


Some Useful Anthropological Terms

Anthropology: Study of humankind

Archaeology: The study of the material remains of past human life and activities, especially those that have been excavated.

Artifact: any object made by a human being

Collections Manager: One whose primary responsibility is to properly care and store the artifacts of a particular discipline's collections.

Cultural Anthropology: Anthropology that deals with human culture especially with respect to social structure, language, law, politics, religion, art, and technology.

Curator: One who is in charge of, interprets, and researches a material collection; Curators at the Natural History Museum are also charged with the responsibility of creating exhibits for the public and publishing results of their own personal research.

Curator Emeritus: retired curator

Curatorial Assistant: One who assists the curator with research.

Ethnology: Similar to Cultural Anthropology, the comparative and analytical study of contemporary human cultures.

Preventative Conservation: Conservation practices that are meant to stabilize and prevent objects from deterioration, ideally, before any degradation has begun.

Sources for Researching Pre-Columbian Latin America

Berrin, Kathleen and Esther Pasztory, ed. Teotihuacan: Art from the City of the Gods. New York: Thames & Hudson: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1993. (This catalogue accompanied an exhibit of the same name and is excellent for gleaning quick and accurate information about Teotihuacan objects.)
Coe, Michael D. The Maya. 7th edition. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999.
D’Altroy, Terence. The Incas. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2002.
Donnan, Christopher B. Ceramics of Ancient Peru. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1992. (An indispensable guide to the ceramic traditions of the major Incan and pre-Incan cultures of Peru. This book provides the most concise summaries and handy illustrated maps of each period and its corresponding culture.)
Evans, Susan Toby. Ancient Mexico & Central America: Archaeology and Culture History. 2nd edition. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2008.
Helms, Mary W. The Curassow’s Crest: Myths and Symbols in the Ceramics of Ancient Panama. Gainesville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 2000. (Mary Helms is the expert when it comes to Central American (primarily Panamanian) ceramics. A must if you have any objects from the Cocle culture and would like to decipher the iconography of the animals and swirls these designs usually incorporate.)
King, Heidi. “Gold in Ancient America.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 4, Gold of the Americas, (Spring 2002), pp. 5-55. (Heidi King was a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This article accompanied an exhibit, and it serves as an excellent informative introduction to pre-Columbian gold.)
Klein, Cecilia F., Eulogio Guzmán, Elisa C. Mandell, and Maya Stanfield-Mazzi. “The Role of Shamanism in Mesoamerican Art.” Current Anthropology. Vol. 43., Number 3, June 2002. (This is a rather technical essay, but it is useful in understanding the popular usage of the word shaman. It was written by some of the nation’s foremost scholars of Latin American art and could be useful if you are drafting text about shamans and would like some insight on how to approach this sensitive topic.)
Miller, Mary Ellen. Maya Art and Architecture. London; New York: Thames & Hudson, 1999.
Miller, Mary and Karl Taube. An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993. (An easy and quick reference guide to common symbols in the Maya language. Particularly useful when referencing proper names of gods, glyphs, calendar symbols, or the significance of particular plants or animals.)
Morris, Craig and Adriana Von Hagen. The Inka Empire and its Andean Origins. American Museum of Natural History. New York: Abbeville Press, 1993. (This book provides the most useful and basic breakdown of the chronology of Andean cultures. It also provides many beautiful maps and photographs as well as important essays on the importance of cloth, musical instruments, and metallurgy.)
Pollard, Helen Perlstein. “A Model of the Emergence of the Tarascan State.” Ancient Mesoamerica, Vol. 19, 217-230. Cambridge University Press, 2008.(I included these essays by Helen Pollard because it is difficult to find information on the Tarascans. Pollard is one of the nation’s leading experts on the Tarascan culture.)
Pollard, Helen Perlstein. “The Political Economy of Prehispanic Tarascan Metallurgy.” American Antiquity, Vol. 52, No. 4, pp. 741-752. 1987.
Proulx, Donald. A Sourcebook of Nasca Ceramic Iconography: Reading a Culture through Its Art. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2006. (A larger format book with great illustrations and photographs. Proulx methodically reviews the chronology and phases of the distinctive and popular Nasca ceramic pottery (which is featured prominently in the vault) and interprets major themes.)
Scarborough, Vernon and David Wilcox, ed. The Mesoamerican Ballgame. Tuscon: The University of Arizona Press. 1991.
Stone-Miller, Rebecca. Art of the Andes: from Chavín to Inca. 2nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002.
Townsend, Richard F. Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past. 1st ed. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1998. (A thorough and detailed collection of current scholarly interpretations of the west Mexican ceramics of the ubiquitous shaft-tomb complexes of the region. Includes a great essay on the Mesoamerican ballgame. )
VanPool, Christine S. “The Shaman-Priests of the Casas Grandes Region, Chihuahua, Mexico.” American Antiquity, Vol. 68, No. 4, pp. 696-717. 2003. Society for American Archaeology. (If you are doing research on Casas Grandes vessels, this is an excellent article that explains the iconographic and symbolic significance of the shaman-priest vessels.)
Wells, E. Christian & Karla L. Davis-Salazar, ed. Mesoamerican Ritual Economy: Archaeological and Ethnological Perspectives. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2007. (This is an excellent collection of in-depth essays that explore the intricacies of Mesoamerican economy.)
­Whitmore, Thomas M. and B.L. Turner II. “Landscapes of Cultivation in Mesoamerica on the Eve of the Conquest.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 82, No. 3, The Americas before and after 1492: Current Geographical Research (Sept., 1992), pp. 402-425. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. (This article gives an informative overview of what agriculture and cultivation were like in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica just before the arrival of the conquistadors. It describes regional crops as well as the methods used to cultivate and harvest them.)