Find Out More about Pitt Rivers Museum

Pitt Rivers Museum is a preservation centre that shows the public archaeological collections of the University of Oxford in England. The museum location is the eastern side of Oxford University Museum of Natural History. The only building that one can gain entry to the museum is through the one that hosts the University of natural history.

History of Pitt Rivers Museum

The founder Augustus Pitt Rivers willingly gave his private collection to the University of Oxford in 1884. Strict conditions followed whereby University Management would appoint an anthropology lecturer permanently. Initially, the donations had an estimation of 22,000 items, but as time crawled, the items increased to 500,000. The number has been influenced by the numerous donations made by travellers, missionaries and scholars.

Collections of Items at the Museum

1)      Shrunken Head is a unique prepared human head used while performing rituals and as a trade item. Tribes of different parts of the world obtained the item from hunting a human and chopping off the head of the victim. People practiced it in historic times in Europe, Central Africa, East Asia and Oceania.  Museum management removed the shrunken head in the museum in March 2020.

2)       Maasai Artefacts are available at the museum, whereby people can learn more about the pastoralist community. Maasai have their home in East Africa, precisely, Kenya and Tanzania. Research and development are ongoing on how they made their way to the museum.

3)      Haida Helmet is a helmet that was made with features of a bear and an octopus. It is projected to have been made for inter-tribal war. No information is available regarding the origin and the one who carved it. It was owned by the founder of the museum initially by 1878.

4)      Ancient Toiletries are items that are displayed to show how ancient communities valued body hygiene. The thing that baffles the archaeologists is how the objects have been able to stand the test of time. For example, Peru people used some tweezers in ancient Peru for removing excessive hair in different body parts. Pumice stones are also part of the collection. People used them in ancient Egypt to remove dirt and scales in the feet.

5)      Shield with a bullet hole is stored in the museum’s armor and originally came from Ethiopia, Africa.  John Busby gave the shield to the museum in 1940. There was a bullet from behind, which left a hole on the shield. It is believed to come from a battlefield when Ethiopians had gone to battle with the British. Shield continued to be used in Ethiopia though they were not effective shields against the British bullets.

6)      Helmet from India was part of the collections which had already being collected by the founder member. It is dated back to the 18th century and was worn with a chain mail shirt. The material used is mail and plate, consisting of twelve iron sections that are formed to look like radiating discs on the top of the head. Neck and cheek guards provide extra protection.

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