Collections and Resources, Digital Library, North Carolina History

UNC Archaeologists and Librarians Produce Online Catalog of Artifacts

Over many decades, scientists at UNC’s Research Laboratories of Archaeology (RLA) have collected more than 8 million artifacts, mostly from sites in North Carolina. Now, as the RLA prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary, it is making information about those pottery fragments, tools, and other relics of earlier lives available to researchers anywhere.

Search the North Carolina Archaeological Collection is the result of a collaboration between the Labs and UNC’s University Library. Librarians working with the RLA converted previously internal records into a fully searchable online guide.


Display of images from the North Carolina Archaeological Collection. Search the collection at

Each record includes information about the object in question—what it is, where and when it was found, and where RLA staff should look to retrieve it.

“The North Carolina Archaeological Collection is the largest and most important such archive in the state,” said Vin Steponaitis, director of the RLA. The collection documents more than 12,000 years of human occupation in and around North Carolina and is, he said, an important resource for research, teaching, exhibitions, and public programs.

The catalog also contains photographs of the items whenever possible. This capability taps into a collection of some 60,000 images that the RLA placed in the Carolina Digital Repository, UNC Library’s online repository that preserves the work of University researchers.

“This is the first time that archaeologists have a way to explore this massive collection online,” said Steponaitis.

Steponaitis believes that the new access will be a boon to researchers and also to those who teach archaeology. The RLA frequently fields inquiries about its collections.

“UNC is one of the few universities where you can major in archaeology, and now we join just a handful of museums to have a tool like this,” said Steponaitis. “It’s a global service to scholarship.”

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