Making and tools (world gallery - additional information)

Making and Tools

Addressing the concepts of ‘Making’ and of ‘Tools’ falls into categories of survival and consumption. In this sense, we are encouraged to think about human made instruments reworked and adapted from the surrounding materials available, such as the pine straw or palm leaves for baskets in Perspectives: Basketry or an object that – intact – is already suited to a specific purpose.

Shells, with their hard outer layer, from the Andaman Islanders and collected by the anthropologist Radcliffe-Brown fit into the latter. They were used as they were found, as scrapers, knives for cutting or as spoons.

Anthropologists and archaeologists have long been fascinated by tools and human societies’ uses of tools. Blades, for example, are an ancient human tool; among the earliest material culture of hominid species are stone choppers for cutting meat.

On display in the World Gallery, in Perspectives: Blades, are several handaxes – two thought to be from the Paleolithic period, from modern Somalia and Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. Another tool, a flint dagger from the Neolithic period was discovered in Denmark. Tools on display in the Gallery that are used for hunting by the Mbendjele in the Democratic Republic of the Congo include perfect weapons for these purposes, such as the elephant spear, arrows for killing small birds, a monkey crossbow and a notched pig spear.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: