The Anthropology Department houses a diverse collection of archaeological materials recovered from the Hawaiian Islands, as well as over 50 islands and archipelagos throughout Oceania. The Museum’s Ethnology Collection, once managed alongside the Archaeology Collection, is now administered by the Ethnology Department. Bishop Museum’s archaeology program emerged out of ethnographic and archaeological work conducted in the Hawaiian Islands and elsewhere in Polynesia by numerous eminent scholars in Pacific archaeology.
Our three newest databases include the Ho‘omaka Hou Research Initiative (HHRI) Online Fishhook Database, the Hawaiian Archaeological Survey (HAS) Database, and the Rapa Nui Interactive Radiocarbon Database. The HHRI Online Fishhook Database contains over 4,000 fishhooks from cultural sites in Ka‘u, Hawai‘i Island that were excavated during the 1950s. The HAS Database includes data from all of the archaeological sites investigated in the State of Hawai‘i by Bishop Museum archaeologists. The database merges information from Bishop Museum’s early archaeological surveys with the records of its later contract archaeology projects to provide a comprehensive searchable catalog of over 12,800 archaeological sites. The Rapa Nui Interactive Radiocarbon Database is a spatial database that includes information on over 300 radiocarbon dates from archaeological research on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). All of these databases can be accessed by clicking the links below. Online Resources
Research-focused excavations by Bishop Museum archaeologists in other areas of the Pacific, including French Polynesia, Tonga, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands significantly added to our understanding of Pacific migration, settlement, and cultural history and also greatly enlarged the Archaeology Collection. This collection continues to be researched as part of the Ho‘omaka Hou Research Initiative (HHRI), which is a collection-based research program that was established in 2013.
Researchers currently working in the Anthropology Department specialize in the archaeology and environmental history of Hawai‘i and the broader Pacific.
In order to request access to the collections for research purposes, please fill out our Collection Access Request Form. For access not related to academic research, please submit email inquiries to the Archaeology Collection Manager.
Explicit written permission to publish photographs of objects in the archaeology collection, as well as images and documents reproduced from paper documents or digital files owned by the Anthropology Department, must be granted in advance. Please refer to the Anthropology Department’s Photography and Reproduction Procedures.
Bishop Museum’s Anthropology Department has studied the cultural heritage of Hawai‘i and its ancestral cultures throughout the Pacific for over a century. Today, the Anthropology Department houses the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts from archaeological contexts. The Archaeology Collections reflect Bishop Museum’s role as one of the most prominent centers of research in the field of Hawaiian and Pacific archaeology. Many of the sites excavated by Bishop Museum archaeologists are fundamental to our understanding of the cultural past of Oceania, including the first firmly-rooted cultural chronologies for the Hawaiian archipelago and wider Pacific region.
The Archaeology Collections are used for research, exhibits, and educational programs. They consist of an estimated two million artifacts and samples from both academic and commercial archaeological projects.The collections contain approximately 70,000 additional related items, including photographs, negatives, a reference library, and archival material that includes field notes, maps, and manuscripts. The collections are divided into two major collections: the Hawaiian Collections and the Pacific Collections. The Hawaiian Collections are the larger of the two, containing archaeological material and data from approximately 550 projects undertaken on seven of the eight primary Hawaiian Islands. The Pacific Collections, which includes smaller collections from Polynesia and the Western Pacific, houses archaeological material from more than 61 islands within 12 island groups. Supplementing these archaeology collections are reference collections containing shell, fauna, wood and seed, historical, and geological reference collections. The department also houses an education collection, which is used by the Anthropology and Science Education departments for outreach projects and public presentations.
There is still much to be learned from studying the materials housed in the Archaeology Collections. In 2013, the Anthropology Department established the Ho‘omaka Hou Research Initiative (HHRI) to foster collaborative collections-based research using cutting-edge scientific techniques. (Ho‘omaka Hou literally means “to begin anew.”) HHRI has generated new international, multidisciplinary research on collections from the Hawaiian Islands, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), New Britain, Tikopia, the Marquesas, and the Society Islands. This research has led to important new insights into the archaeological history of these islands, including updated chronologies for island migrations and settlement, and understanding how past people across the Pacific interacted with and managed their environments.
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