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Department of Anthropology

Temple of the Incriptions, Artists Representation, Palenque, Mexico

Current Exhibits

African Voices African Voices: Portrait This permanent exhibition in the National Museum of Natural History explores the continent of Africa and its people. Drawing upon the museum's vast collections, as well as commissioned sculptures, textiles and pottery, this exhibition examines the historic diversity, dynamism and global influence of Africa's peoples and cultures.

Mud Masons of Mali The city of Djenné is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its earthen architecture. Its masons are inheritors of a craft tradition handed down from one generation to the next since the 14th century.

Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt An exploration of ancient Egyptian mythology, cosmology, and burial ritual. Learn how museum scientists study mummies using advanced imaging technologies, such as CT scans and X-ray radiography, to uncover clues about how ancient Egyptians lived and died.

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins Journey through 6 million years of scientific evidence for human evolution and the stories of survival and extinction in our family tree during times of climate instability.

The Sant Ocean Hall includes stories and artifacts that explore the human connections with the ocean, including the Raven Spirit canoe.



Past and Online-Only Exhibits

Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake Human anatomy and forensic investigation provide intriguing information on people and events of America's past. This exhibition (on view from 2009-2014) examined history through 17th-century bone biographies, including those of colonists teetering on the edge of survival at Jamestown, Virginia, and those of wealthy and well-established individuals of St. Mary’s City, Maryland.


Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People Over the centuries, the Ainu have mainained their sense of what being Ainu means through beautiful craftsmanship, a rich oral tradition, and complex rituals. In 1999, this exhibit was the first to celebrate both the contemporary expression of Ainu ethnicity and the experiences of the Ainu past.


Canela Portrait of native man

The Canela Indians of Northeastern Brazil - Explore the daily life, artifacts, environment, and ritual life of the Canela people, with whom emeritus curator Bill Crocker has conducted anthropological fieldwork since the 1950s.


Agayuliyararput, Our Way of Making Prayer / Yu'pik Masks Developed jointly by a team of native Yup'ik people from southwestern Alaska, researchers and museum professionals, Agayuliyararput or "Our Way of Making Prayer" was the first exhibit (touring from 1996 to 1998) to bring Yup'ik masks and ceremonial materials to a wide audience in their native context.


Yuungnaqpiallerput (The Way We Genuinely Live): Masterworks of Yup’ik Science and Survival In this temporary exhibit from 2010, Yup'ik elders shared their scientific and spiritual knowledge for living in the sub-arctic environment of western Alaska. The exhibit included more than 200 19th- and 20th-century tools, clothing, weapons, and watercraft.


Alaska Native Collections

Alaska Native Collections: Sharing Knowledge
The indigenous heritage of Alaska and adjacent regions is woven from the arts, knowledge, values, and beliefs of many cultures. Explore Smithsonian collections with Native tradition bearers and learn about the peoples of this northern world.


Crossroads of Continents Logo

Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska - For at least the past 16,000 years, humans have adapted to the harsh climate of the Bering Strait region, making a bountiful living from the abundant natural resources there. Crossroads of Continents celebrates the wide diversity and common ancestry of these North Pacific cultures.


Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely Explore the Arctic’s changing climate, through the eyes of scientists and polar residents. Discover what these changes mean for the Arctic, its wildlife, its people—and the rest of the planet.


Bobo Dread Portrait

Dread History: The African Diaspora, Ethiopianism, and Rastafari - Like the Garvey Movement and other forms of pan-Africanism before it, the Rastafari fashion their vision of an ancestral homeland through a complex of ideas and symbols known as Ethiopianism, an ideology which has informed African-American concepts of nationhood, independence, and political uplift since the late 16th century.


Tlingit Man Dancing

Looking Both Ways: Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People of Southern Alaska "What does it mean to be Alutiiq?" The answer flows from history, values, traditions, and spiritual beliefs; from the bonds of family and language; and from lives lived close to the land and sea.



Red Cloud's Manikin and His Uncle's Shirt Examines photographs of early manikins representing Plains Indians in the Smithsonian Institution during the 1870s.


Detail of throne

Royal Gifts from Thailand The symbolic exchange of gifts between Thailand and the United States established a bond between two very different nations and sealed a friendship that endures to this day.


a group of jade figures as they were excavated

Smithsonian Olmec Legacy Between 1939 and 1946, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society co-sponsored eight expeditions to Mexico to explore archaeological sites in Veracruz, Tabasco and Campeche. This website tells the story of these and other archaeological expeditions, along with an overview of the Museum's Olmec collections, and related manuscript and photographic material.



Textiles of the North American Southwest Explores the weaving traditions of the American Indian and Hispanic residents of the North American Southwest. Over the past 2000 years, weavers in this region have created a wide variety of textiles that express, in both design and technique, the changing circumstances of their lives and the extensive flow of ideas across cultural frontiers.


Vikings: The North Altantic Saga1000 years ago, Leif Eriksson became the first European to reach North American soil. This exhibit illuminates the origins and impact of this pivotal moment in history, shedding light on the Vikings and their expansion across the Atlantic from Scandinavia.


Written in Stone: Inscriptions from the National Museum of Saudi Arabia In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, inscriptions were etched, engraved, pecked, or even sometimes carved in bas-relief on stones or on the rock-faces of cliffs and hills. This website features 54 museum objects which bear examples of ancient epigraphy.

Online Exhibitions from the National Anthropological Archives


The John P. Harrington Collection An entry point to the massive collections assembled by John P. Harrington, much of which has been recently digitized for online access. Harrington was a prolific linguist who assembled resources on some 130 native languages of North America, and his materials include information on endangered languages, traditional environmental language, and material culture. Includes finding aids and links to digitized manuscripts, sound recordings, and other resources.


The Jorge Prelorán Collectionunknown Prelorán was a preeminent Argentine filmmaker whose life's work includes more than fifty films, hundreds of audio recordings, extensive production and correspondence files, and thirty-six digital books on subjects including religion, folklife, art, culture change, and natural history of Argentina and Latin America. This website introduces Prelorán's career and philosophy, provides access to further research in the collection, and offers complete films for viewing on a rotating basis.


A Million Feet of Film / A Lifetime of Friendship: the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000


This website from the Human Studies Film Archives explores the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000, one of the seminal visual anthropology collections of the 20th century. Recently added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register for documentary heritage of extraordinary value, the collection documents fifty years and many dramatic changes in the lives of the Ju/'hoansi (!Kung San Bushmen) of the Kalahari Desert in northeastern Namibia.


Lakota Winter Counts Exhibit Logo

Lakota Winter Counts Shows how Lakota historians depicted memorable events in their communities between 1701 and 1905


Portrait of Sitting Bull and family

Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher


Canela Body Adornment Photographs of northeastern Brazil from the William H. Crocker collection.


Squint Eyes: Artist & Indian Scout


Tichematse using Plains Sign Language

Tichkematse, A Cheyenne at the Smithsonian The story of a Cheyenne Indian working for the Institution between 1879 and 1881.


Drawing the Western Frontier: The James E. Taylor Album


Coast of Vancouver, by Elliot

Henry Wood Elliott: An American Artist in Alaska


Kiowa Drawings An extensive overview of ledger drawings by Kiowa Indians.


Selections from the Field Journal of William Duncan Strong (Honduras, 1933)


Benedicte Wrensted Portrait

Benedicte Wrensted: An Idaho Photographer in Focus
The remarkable photography of Benedicte Wrensted (1859-1949) lay in obscurity for decades until brought to light by the detective work of a Smithsonian anthropologist while researching photographs for the Smithsonian's Handbook of North American Indians.


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