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Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

Human History

Human History

 Birmingham's archaeological collections include both treasure and everyday items, ranging from 400,000 year old hand-axes to pots made 400 years ago. The objects come from many parts of the world and deal with prehistoric cultures as well as the famous civilisations of Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia.

The prehistoric collections include items from Neolithic sites such as Vinca in Yugoslavia and the Lake Villages of Switzerland, as well as splendid pieces of Celtic metalwork, like the gold torc or neck ornament found at Glascote, near Tamworth.

The ancient civilisations of the Mediterranean and Near East are well represented. Objects from Mesopotamia and the Holy Land come mainly from excavations at once great cities like Ur, Nineveh, Nimrud, Jericho and Jerusalem. These excavations were conducted by famous British archaeologists including Sir Leonard Woolley and Dame Kathleen Kenyon. Among the exhibits are a Neolithic plastered skull from Jericho and superbly carved ivories from an Assyrian royal palace at Nimrud.

The Cypriot collection is one of the largest in Britain and includes several hundred pieces from an Early Bronze Age cemetery at Vounous, among them some spectacular pottery vessels which seem to have been made specifically to be buried. These objects were presented in 1938 by Sir Charles Hyde, then owner of the Birmingham Post and Mail, whose fascination with archaeology led him to fund he excavations at the site.

The Greek and Roman collections are smaller but include representative selections of pottery, glassware and jewellery. In the Coin Gallery there are several cases devoted to the development of Greek and Roman coinage.

The displays on the Ancient Egyptians contain a wealth of items illustrating their daily life. They also reveal Egyptian religious and funerary beliefs and include mummies, painted coffins and other objects connected with death and burial.

The archaeology of the peoples of the Pre-Columbian Americas is displayed on the Great Charles Street staircase. Amongst the most striking items in the archaeological collections are the modelled and brightly painted pots made by the Nazea and Moche peoples of Peru (about AD 0-600).

For more information about events and exhibitions related to the Archaeology collection please visit the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery website . If you are planning a visit to Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery to see a particular object or collection please contact us first to find out if it is on display. Email Birmingham Museums & Art Galleries  or ring 0121 303 2834.


Other BM&AG Collections