Skip to main content

The James Bell Bullitt Collection contains more than 1,750 artifacts, most dated to the Paleolithic period roughly between 50,000 and 12,000 years ago. Collected in the 1920s by UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Dr. James Bullitt, these objects come from archaeological sites in France, England, Switzerland, and Belgium. Artifacts include projectile points, stone and bronze axes, celts, drills, scrapers and other stone blades, bone needles, fishhooks, pottery, as well as Norman and Roman coins. For more information about specific artifacts, check out the Research Laboratories of Archaeology’s Specimen CatalogĀ as well as the honors thesis, images, and map below.

Honors Thesis

The undergraduate honors thesis “Tool Industries of the European Paleolithic: Insights into Hominid Evolution and Shifts in Archaeological Theory and Practice from the James B. Bullitt Collection” by Sophie Joseph examines 511 artifacts from 10 sites in the Bullitt Collection. Typical of the era, Bullitt amassed his collection by either purchasing artifacts or accepting them as gifts from archaeologists, professors, private collectors, and museums. This acquisition strategy resulted in objects retaining few details about their archaeological provenience. Most artifacts are identified only to archaeological site; additional contextual information such as excavation area and stratigraphic level remains unknown. Joseph contextualizes the collected artifacts by looking at the history of each archaeological site, showing how interpretations have changed, or stayed the same, since Bullitt’s 1929 travels. She also brings in new evidence from radiometric dating that was not available back then. Joseph places this collection into the broader French Paleolithic chronology, looks at connections among archaeological sites represented, and compares the Bullitt Collection with current literature on the French Paleolithic.

Artifact Images

Some artifacts in the Bullitt Collection have been 3D modeled using photogrammetry. A gallery of these models can be seen below. Additional 3D images can be accessed from the RLA’s Sketchfab page. Photographs of the artifacts can be found in UNC’s Digital Collections Repository. The easiest way to find these images is to search on the archaeological site name associated with the object, which can be found in the Specimen Catalog linked above or on the map below.


Site Locations

Below you will find a map locating the archaeological sites from which Bullitt acquired artifacts and/or visited during his travels. Some artifacts may have been acquired by Bullitt without visiting the site and several sites he visited are not represented by artifacts in the collection. Please note: The site of Le Madeleine is located incorrectly on the map. It should be located near the cluster of sites in southern France, not in eastern France near the border with Switzerland.

Click on any red dot to view the site name, artifact inventory, and other details.

Map credit: Sepideh Saeedi.