The earliest collections of archaeological material date back to 1895. The bulk of the early material in the Department was accumulated in the 1920s and 1930s by amateur archaeologists such as D J Hewitt and the Rev P. Stapleton, who excavated numerous sites in the vicinity of Grahamstown.
Important excavations were undertaken at the type sites of Wilton and Howieson’s Poort. The first professional archaeologist, Dr Hilary Deacon, was appointed in 1961. The bulk of the collections comprise Early, Middle and Later Stone Age material.
There is also a smaller collection of Iron Age (i.e. first black farmers) material. There are also historical archaeological collections resulting from excavations at various military fortifications.
The Department has a small, but valuable collection of Greek, Roman and Egyptian material accumulated before 1900. The Archaeology Department serves as the Data Recording Centre for the Eastern Cape.