Academy welcomes new Anthropology Curator
August 2023
The Academy is thrilled to announce the arrival of new Associate Curator and Irvine Chair of Anthropology Dr. Shannon Tushingham, an anthropological archaeologist with diverse projects in California and Washington state.

Learn more about Dr. Tushingham's work here.

Academy textile featured in the winter edition of PieceWork magazine
October 2022
Coptic textile rondel CAS 0389-2587 has been featured in the latest edition of PieceWork magazine. The article is a wonderful discussion of wool and linen pieces from the Coptic era in an edition dedicated to wool. To read the full article purchase the magazine from Long Thread Media.

Academy Curator of Anthropology to Give Public Lectures in September
September 2018

The Academy's new Associate Curator and Irvine Chair of Anthropology, Dr. Todd Braje, will be presenting his work on coastal ecology at two events this month.

On Thursday, September 6, Dr. Braje will discuss his research into millennia of abalone fishing in the Channel Islands and its implications for modern populations. This program is presented at 6:30 pm in Morrison Planetarium, during the Academy's weekly NightLife event (21+), and is free with admission.

On Wednesday, September 19, at 2 pm, Dr. Braje will give a special Member Talk on his Pacific Coast shoreline studies. This talk is free for Academy members, although space is limited and RSVP required. Not a member? Click here to learn about the benefits, including unlimited daily admission, exhibit previews, discounts on shopping and dining, and exclusive events such as Member Talks.

Academy Welcomes New Curator of Anthropology
July 2018

The Academy is proud to announce new Associate Curator and Irvine Chair of Anthropology, Dr. Todd Braje. An archaeologist who works on coastal sites such as California's Channel Islands, Dr. Braje explores how humans have shaped these environments, and how past interactions can inform future management.

To learn more about Dr. Braje's work, click here, and keep an eye on the Academy's events calendar for upcoming talks about his fascinating and valuable research.

Joseph Dixon Collection and Other Donations Received by the Academy
February 2018

A Mt. Shasta-area mortar and pestle collected by the renown naturalist Joseph S. Dixon was recently donated to the Academy. Collected ca. 1920, the set was kept in the family until Mr. Dixon's granddaughter generously donated it to the Department of Anthropology. The Department also received donations of ethnographic materials from elsewhere in California and the Southwest, as well as Hawai'i and Vanuatu.

All objects in the Anthropology collection are viewable online. Visit our online database and select a cultural group, object type, or other criterion or criteria of your choice.

The Academy is grateful to all of our donors for their continued support of the Department of Anthropology.

Oceanian and Native American Objects Donated to the Academy
December 2017

This December the Academy received a bevy of donations from generous donors. Included are historic collections from Yap, Palau and Papua New Guinea, Southwestern pottery, Hopi katsinam and works of art on paper by well-known Native American artists.

To view these and other objects in the Anthropology collection, visit our online database and select a cultural group, object type, or other criterion or criteria of your choice.

Many thanks to all of our donors for their support of the Department of Anthropology.

New Anthropology Acquisitions Highlighted on Behind-the-Scenes Tours​
March 2017

The Academy's Behind-the-Scenes Tours are now featuring new acquisitions from the Department of Anthropology. Received as in-kind donations from generous donors, or museum purchases thanks to cash donations, these objects range from Pueblo pottery, Hopi katsinam, Oceanic shell work and a delicate hundred-year-old California Indian earring woven out of feathers. View these and other pieces acquired in the past year while visiting the anthropology lab on an Academy Behind-the-Scenes Tour during your next visit.

Due to group size and time constraints, not all tours make the same stops. Ask your guide if you can visit the Anthropology Lab to be sure to see these new acquisitions and learn more about the work that the department is undertaking.

The Academy's entire Anthropology collection is available to view online. Go to our online database and select a criterion or criteria of your choice.

Anthropology Department Receives Donation of Southwestern Pottery and Katsinam
January 2017

The Academy recently received a donation of Southwestern objects dating from throughout the 20th century. Composed largely of Pueblo pottery and katsinam, the collection also includes some surprises, such as a charming redwood doll from California and a very large, delicately thin, early piece by renown potter Richard Zane Smith. This new donation supplements prior departmental holdings, particularly in mid- to late-20th century examples. To see the entire donation, click here.  To peruse the Anthropology collection in its entirety, go to our online database and select a criterion or criteria of your choice.

The Academy thanks all of our donors for their continued support and generosity.

New Academy Exhibit Highlights Anthropology Research in Human Evolution
November 2016

A new addition has been unveiled in the Academy's Human Odyssey exhibit: a life-sized model of Selam, the 3.3 million-year-old fossil of an australopithecine toddler found by Academy researcher Dr. Zeray Alemseged. This display is the first time a complete 3D representation of the little girl has been shown anywhere. Come visit our ancient ancestor and two other updated dioramas, appropriately located in Tusher African Hall.

Academy Seeks New Curator of Biological or Physical Anthropology
October 2016

The Academy is now hiring an Assistant or Associate Curator of Anthropology to fill the Irvine Chair of Anthropology. The successful candidate will focus on biological or physical anthropology, and may be from a broad range of areas, including human evolution, paleoanthropology, environmental anthropology, forensic anthropology, primatology, or related natural science disciplines of anthropology. We are especially interested in anthropologists who have experience collaborating with biologists and environmental scientists. The successful candidate will possess a Ph.D. in a relevant field, a demonstrated publication record, and an independent research program. At least one year of postdoctoral research experience or equivalent is preferred.

For more information and to apply, visit our posting on Snaphire.

New Academy Exhibit Features Objects from the Anthropology Collection
September 2016

A new exhibit is now open at the California Academy of Sciences. Gems and Minerals Unearthed highlights specimens from the Academy's Geology collection and features objects from other Academy collections, as well. A turquoise and silver Navajo squash blossom necklace, an ancient Roman projectile point, a traditional Nunavut ulu, and a 300 year old, double-spouted Syrian oil lamp are just a few of the pieces from the Academy's Anthropology collection that are included in the exhibition. Visit this new exhibit on the the L3 gallery above the Academy Café to see these pieces and more from the Academy's vast research collections.

The Academy's entire Anthropology collection is available to view online. Go to our online database and select a material, object type, or other criterion or criteria of your choice.

New Academy Acquisitions Range from Oceania Weaving to Fritz Scholder Work
August 2016

The Academy has recently accessioned a number of new donations, thanks to the generosity of multiple donors.  The new acquisitions include a plethora of wonderful objects: a pair of woven Fijian mats from the 1930s, a collection of Micronesian necklaces, fans and basketry, a rugby-ball shaped fish trap from the Caroline Islands, a beautifully carved Micronesian coconut husker bench, a large Paiute pestle, and a sweet, limited edition miniature book and lithograph by renown Luiseño artist Fritz Scholder.  The Academy thanks all our donors for helping us grow the collection with complementary and important pieces.

The Academy's entire Anthropology collection is available to view online. Go to our online database and select a criterion or criteria of your choice.

Historic California Bow and Arrows Donated to Academy
July 2016

An historic sinew-backed bow and set of arrows from Northern California were recently donated to the Academy. Painted white with blue and red designs, the bow has a suede-wrapped grip and still has the bowstring intact. The arrows have obsidian points attached with sinew and raptor feather fletching. Dating from around 1900, the set complements previous donations of white, blue and red painted bows from the same area and era.

The Academy's full collection from Native California is available to view online. Go to our online database and select "State/Prov./Dist.: California" coupled with the cultural group or object type of your choice.

Academy's Southwest Pottery and Jewelry Exhibit Closing in Late Summer
June 2016

Evolving Traditions, the Academy's exhibit on Southwest pottery and jewelry, will be closing on August 21. Drawn entirely from the Academy's Anthropology collection, the exhibit showcases the evolution - and continuity - of pottery and jewelry-making traditions and techniques among Southwestern tribes. Located in the L3 Gallery past the exit from the planetarium and above the Café, the exhibit includes nearly 250 pieces that are both historically important and visually stunning. Visit Evolving Traditions before the pieces are returned to permanent storage.

The Academy's full collection of Southwest pottery and jewelry is always available for remote viewing. Go to our online database and select "Category: Pottery" or "Category: Jewelry & Metalwork" coupled with the cultural group of your choice.

Southwest Artists' Work Donated to Academy
November 2015

The Academy's Department of Anthropology recently received a donation of artwork by important Pueblo and Navajo artists. Signed and numbered lithographs by R.C. Gorman, Robert Montoya and Clifford Beck complement our previous holdings of Native North American art which includes nearly 100 pieces from Alaska as well as a sizeable collection by Southwestern artists.

The Academy's entire collection of Native American artwork is available online. Visit our searchable database and enter the name of an artist or a specific cultural group coupled with the category "Visual Arts."

Historic California Baskets from the Academy's Collection on Display at USF
August 2015

The University of San Francisco has recently opened a new exhibit on historic California Indian basketry. Focusing on baskets created from the Mission era (1769-1830s) to the early 1900s, the exhibit, Interwoven, features pieces borrowed from numerous institutions, including the California Academy of Sciences. On now through November 1, Interwoven is at the University's Thacher Gallery, inside the Gleeson Library. The Gallery is free and open to the public from noon to 6 pm daily.

The Academy's full collection of more than 400 California Indian baskets is available to view online, here.

Academy Curator Meets President Obama
July 2015

Senior Curator of Anthropology Zeray Alemseged met with President Barrack Obama this month while the President was on a state visit to east Africa, including the first visit to Ethiopia by a sitting US president. On a business trip to Ethiopia himself, Dr. Alemseged discussed the importance of hominin fossils such as “Selam” and “Lucy,” with those iconic skeletons present as their guides. As a preeminent expert in human evolution and a native of Ethiopia, the California resident was perfectly positioned to sum up the fossils' importance to the President of the United States.

For additional coverage of this historic meeting, click on the links below.


Academy Collections on View at the SFO Museum
July 2015

A new exhibit at the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport features California-related materials from the Academy's collections. With objects from eight different departments, including Anthropology, the exhibit highlights the natural history of the state and showcases little-seen specimens from throughout the Academy's research collections. The exhibit is open July 11, 2015, through January 3, 2016, in the international terminal, a pre-security exhibit space available for viewing even for those without a plane to catch.

The Academy’s entire collection of cultural materials from California is available to view online. Visit our online database and type in “California” in the “State/Prov./Dist.” field, coupled with a cultural group, object type or other criteria of your choice.

Academy Receives Collection of Alaskan Whale Bone Masks
April 2015

Just in time for the opening of the new Academy exhibit on whales (April 3 through November 29, 2015), the Department of Anthropology received a donation of six whale bone carvings from Alaska. The creations of Inupiat carvers, the pieces are in the shape of small masks. Each mask has a unique character, with playful facial expressions and inlaid teeth, eyes and in one case, labrets.

To view this collection, click here.

California Indian Baskets from the Academy’s Collection on Display in Marin County
February 2015

Nearly 80 historic California Indian baskets from the Academy’s collection will be on display this month in the San Rafael exhibit “Yesterday and Today.” Along with over 50 contemporary baskets by present-day basket weavers, the historic pieces showcase the diversity and ubiquity of baskets in California and exemplify the skill and artistry of the weavers. A collaboration between the Academy and the California Indian Basketweaver’s Association (CIBA), the exhibit will be part of the 31st Annual Marin Show: Art of the Americas, and will include pieces never before displayed, including an incredible Maidu basket from the early 1900’s that measures 45 inches in diameter. The show and exhibit run February 20-22, 2015, at the Marin Center, and include a two-day symposium and live basket weaving by CIBA members.

The Academy’s entire collection of California Indian baskets is available to view online, here.

Academy Curator Featured in Online Science Article
September 2014

Senior Curator of Anthropology Zeray Alemseged is featured in a new online science article about Ethiopian paleoanthropologists. Digging Through the World’s Oldest Graveyard starts with Dr. Alemseged's first foray into fieldwork, in which he himself served as driver and cook, and follows his work through the years as he discovers the fossil-rich site of Dikika, expands his team to 50, and solidifies his reputation as a top-tier scientist.

To read the full article, visit Nautilus online.

Hawaiian Pieces from the Academy’s Collection on Display at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah
September 2014

Days of Grace: California Artist Grace Hudson in Hawaii is currently showing through December 28, 2014 at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, CA, and includes a number of native Hawaiian objects from the Academy’s extensive Ostheimer Collection. Grace Hudson is perhaps best known for her paintings of California native people, but in 1901, the artist spent nearly a year in Hawaii, resulting in a small but important group of paintings depicting Hawaiian people and locations. This is the first time those paintings have been brought together and studied as a group. Within the paintings, the subjects might be seen wearing feather leis, necklaces, or kapa garments, or using tools and other household items typical of the time. Seeing actual examples of these items alongside the paintings clearly illustrates the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but also helps the viewer to more fully appreciate the workmanship that went into the making of those objects.

Academy Receives Collection of Oceanic Material
July 2014

Thanks to the generosity of a long-time Academy docent, the Department of Anthropology was the recipient of a donation of materials from Oceania and Australia. The collection consists of a wide array of objects, from utilitarian tools and utensils, to shell and seed jewelry, to intricately carved and inlaid bowls and tools. Collected in the early 1990s by the donor and her husband, the group includes wonderful examples of objects from Papua New Guinea and other western Pacific islands.

To view the collection, click here.

New Online Exhibit Highlights Academy’s Unique Collection of Navajo-Style Rugs
April 2014

Included in the Academy’s Anthropology collection is a unique group of contemporary Navajo-style rugs. These rugs were woven not by Navajo Indians, but by an English couple, Margaret and Tony Shuffrey, who, upon their first visit to the American Southwest in 1980, immediately became enthralled by Navajo culture and the rugs for which the Navajo are internationally acclaimed. They subsequently taught themselves how to weave in the Navajo style, and over a twenty year span completed nearly 40 Navajo-style rugs. Their weavings were used to illustrate lectures about Navajo weaving and culture that they presented throughout England and Wales. Their collection garnered praise from Navajo weavers and traders alike, many of whom became close personal friends.

A new online exhibit details the history of the collection’s creation and its ongoing importance for education and exhibition. To view the exhibit, click here.

Japanese Folk Toys From the Academy Collection Displayed at SFO
November 2013

A new exhibit at the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport features objects from the Academy's Anthropology collection. Over 125 dolls, whistles, carvings and other Academy objects are part of an exhibit on Japanese toys. If you're traveling through the United terminal at SFO now through May 7, 2014, take a moment to learn about these symbolic and creative objects and see the evolution of folk toy design up to the present day. To view the Academy's full collection of Japanese folk toys on our online database, click here.

Native American Art Exhibit Features Works from the Academy's Collection
September 2013

Twenty works from the Academy’s collection of paintings and drawings by Native American artists are included in a current exhibit, Foundations: Native American Painting, showing now through December 6 at the C.N. Gorman Museum at UC Davis in Davis, CA. 2013 marks the Gorman Museum’s 40th anniversary, and their staff is marking the occasion with this exhibit which traces the development of Native American painting from 1925 to 1980. During the first half of that era, many Native artists honed their skills at the Santa Fe Indian School’s “Studio” and later the Institute of American Indian Art, as well as at similar programs at Bacone College in Oklahoma. The whole definition of “Native American art” gradually changed at national competitions like the Gallup Inter-tribal Ceremonial, the Philbrook Art Center’s American Indian Artists Exhibition, and the Scottsdale National Indian Arts Exhibition, as artists themselves determined what was or wasn’t “authentic,” thus paving the way for their own children and grandchildren who are today’s leading artists.

The Gorman Museum is located in Hart Hall on the SW corner of the quad of the UC Davis campus, and is open to the public Monday through Friday, noon to 5 pm, and Sunday, 2 to 5 pm. For directions, see www.gormanmuseum.ucdavis.edu.

Academy Receives Donation of Important Historic and Contemporary Navajo Rugs
July 2013

The Department of Anthropology recently received a very important donation of 4 historic and 49 contemporary Navajo rugs from Nance and Mel Donaldson. The Donaldsons assembled their collection during the 1980s and 1990s, and acquired beautiful examples of most of the regional styles of rugs woven by today’s Navajo weavers. Included in the collection are examples by some of the most important weavers of that period, including Mae Jim and Sadie Curtis, both of whom excelled in weaving Ganado style rugs, Larry Nathaniel, a male weaver who produces tapestry-weight rugs in the Two Grey Hills style, Barbara Benally who weaves large sandpainting rugs, and Marjorie Spencer and her daughter, Geneva Shabi, who weave intricate Wide Ruins style rugs. Several of the rugs won awards at the New Mexico State Fair and the Navajo Nation Fair. Other styles represented are Storm Pattern, Chinle, Crystal, Raised Outline, Teec Nos Pos, Pictorial, Burntwater, Yei, and Yeibichai, and several saddle blankets. The four historic examples include two rugs from the 1890s that are woven of Germantown yarn, a type of commercial yarn that was produced in Germantown, a suburb of Philadelphia, in the late 1800s and then made available to Navajo weavers through trading posts.

This generous donation adds considerable depth to the Academy’s Navajo rug collection, in terms of the individual weavers who are represented, the period in which these rugs were produced, and in the range of regional styles. Previously, the Academy’s collection had only a few Navajo rugs that were woven after the mid-1960s, and relatively few that clearly illustrated the various regional styles, most of which are based on particular designs and/or colors and are often named for a particular trading post on the Navajo Reservation.

To view these rugs, click here.

Academy Curator Uses Isoptope Analysis to Determine Early Hominin Dietary Changes
June 2013

Senior Academy Curator of Anthropology Zeray Alemseged and his colleagues recently published two papers describing evidence of dietary change in hominins based on tooth isotope analysis. Read the papers, on australopithicine diet and on isotopic evidence, or follow the story in the press:


Academy Curator Awarded 3 Year NSF Grant
April 2013

Senior Curator and Irvine Chair of Anthropology Zeray Alemseged recently won a three-year National Science Foundation grant for his project “Integrating multidisciplinary tools to study Plio-Pleistocene paleoecology of early hominins from the Omo Valley, Ethiopia,” otherwise known as “You are what you eat.” The project will apply new integrative approaches to a large collection of fauna from the Lower Omo Valley of southwestern Ethiopia in order to better understand the paleoecology of Plio-Pleistocene hominins. Combining existing taxonomic abundance data with independent paleoecological information derived from stable isotopes and ecomorphology, Dr. Alemseged and his team will test hypotheses regarding paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic change in the region, during a period marked by some of the major events in early hominin evolution. Their integrated approach will help facilitate more robust interpretations of large-scale environmental change, and will also allow for the reconstruction of changes in hominin habitats and their distribution through time.

Academy Curator Makes Cover of Science
October 2012

Academy Curator of Anthropology Zeray Alemseged's recent publication Australopithecus afarensis Scapular Ontogeny, Function, and the Role of Climbing in Human Evolution, made the cover of Science. Dr. Alemseged previously published cover stories in Nature on the earliest evidence of stone tool use in food-procuring butchering, and on his team's famous find of the 3.3 million year old child, Selam.

For earlier departmental news, visit our Archives page.


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Anthropology News Video Links

In 2013, CNN profiled Dr. Zeray Alemseged, Academy Research Associate in Anthropology, in a trio of videos. To watch, click on one of the links below.
Uncovering 'the world's oldest child'
Paleoanthropologist studies own children
Public education inspires scientist

Academy Research Associate Dr. Zeray Alemseged was featured on PBS's NOVA in 2011 and again in 2012. Click on a link below to watch online.
Becoming Human Part 1: First Steps (2011)
What Makes Us Human? (2012)
Profile: Zeresenay Alemseged (2012)

In 2006 Academy Research Associate Dr. Zeray Alemseged and his team uncovered the fossil remains of a 3.3 million year old Australopithecus afarensis child, nicknamed "Selam," in the Dikika area of northeastern Ethiopia. To watch videos discussing this important find, click on the links below.
National Geographic

For other online videos featuring Academy Research Associate Dr. Zeray Alemseged and his work, check out the YouTube links below.
Human Evolution Hasn't Been Perfect (2013)
Oldest Evidence Of Stone Tool Use (2010)
Q&A with Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged (2008)
Dikika fossil found by Zeresenay Alemseged (2006)