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The World Cultures Collections of the Redpath Museum include close to 17 000 archaeological and ethnological artifacts. Their geographic scope is global, with the exception of material relating to Canada's First Nations, now part of the McCord Museum. The Redpath holdings are an important national resource and in many cases represent some of the earliest ethnological materials held by North American museums. Archaeological and ethnological artifacts were part of the original collection at the Museum, although subordinate in number and emphasis to the natural history holdings. Additional material came to the Redpath from the Natural History Society of Montreal (1827-1926) and McGill's Ethnological Museum (see Lawson 1994, 1999).
Most of the African material is from central Africa (Angola and Congo) and was collected circa 1900. It includes ancestral and spirit figures carved in wood; basketry, beadwork and personal ornaments, blacksmithing tools, carved stools and chairs, ceremonial staffs, masks, musical instruments, pottery and household artifacts, shields and weapons, textiles (approximately 2500 objects).
The collection is the second largest in Canada, after that of the Royal Ontario Museum. It includes ceremonial and religious items including polychrome sculpture, hieroglyphic texts, amulets, ornaments, bronze figures, 3 human and several animal mummies, stone vessels; Predynastic and Dynastic pottery (approximately 2000 objects).
A collection of approximately 2300 Greek and Roman coins, lamps, ancient and classical finger-rings and gems, all of which have been published. There is also metalwork (especially lead figurines), pottery, and glass (approximately 1200 objects).
There are approximately 800 objects from Oceania. Among these are some of the earliest donations of ethnological material to the Redpath Museum, many of them acquired between 1800 and 1900. These include basketry, barkcloth (tapa), ceremonial objects, ornaments, and weapons. The regions represented are Australia (35 objects), Fiji (50 objects), New Zealand (40 objects), Papua New Guinea (50 objects), Samoa (50 objects), Solomon Islands (150 objects) and Vanuatu (150 objects).
Paleolithic Europe & the Near East
There are approximately 3000 artifacts in this collection which includes material from the excavations of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (Shubka Cave, Judea) and also material acquired by Henry Ami from excavations of the Canadian School of Prehistory in France, especially Combe Capelle.
A collection of basketry, beadwork, ceremonial objects, gourds, Pre-Conquest pottery, textiles and weapons (approximately 600 objects), including over 160 objects from the Gran Chaco region of Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
Medicine containers and implements used by Sinhalese medical practitioners in 15th century Ceylon (approximately 350 objects).