Historical development of the KwaZulu-Natal Museum’s archaeological archive: the case of the Michael Moon collection

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Museums are defined as institutions where treasures of humankind are stored. These treasures include memories of people of the world, their cultures, dreams and hopes, most commonly as represented by material culture. This dissertation considers one aspect of the archaeological archive at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, the contribution made by amateur archaeologist Michael (Mike) A. Moon. Most of his collection comes from sites exposed by and then lost to development beyond the view of professional archaeologists. The collection covers much of the vast range of human endeavour in south-eastern Africa and constitutes a valuable addition to our knowledge base of the past in KwaZulu-Natal. The archaeological usefulness of the collection relates to its ‘co-production’ through Moon’s dialogue with professional archaeologists over many years. I examine the Mike Moon collection by looking into detail of the individual artefacts so that I would be able to learn more about their archaeological value as I analysed them. My analysis of the Moon collection is supplemented by the interviews I conducted with Mike Moon before he died in January 2021. Additional interviews were conducted with two professional archaeologists who had an opportunity to work with Mike Moon on occasional basis, Aron Mazel and Tim Maggs, an officer from the provincial heritage resources authority, Amafa, Celeste Rossouw, and a close friend, Jennifer Gregory. My study engages the discussion with a focus on the key findings of my analysis of the Mike Moon collection housed at the Museum as well as the interviews with him and four respondents. It also touches on Moon’s private collection housed at his house, which he acquired through various methods over the years. I conclude with the discussion on how others perceive amateur archaeology as well as how amateur archaeologists feel following mixed treatment experiences by professionals.
A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Archaeology to the Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022
Museum, Collection, Archaeology