In Manchester Museum's archaeology collection can be found objects from several hundred thousand years ago right up to the 20th century. Historically the Museum has supported excavations in the eastern Mediterranean, western Asia, and Mesopotamia. Highlights include a massive carved stone relief from Nineveh, cuneiform tablets, ivories from Nimrud, and John Allegro’s photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The collection also boasts a fine collection of painted vases, carved gems, terracotta figures and metalwork from Bronze Age Mycenae and Crete, and from Etruscan Italy. Analysis of a Corinthian bronze helmet shows that it was once dedicated in an ancient Greek temple.
The prehistoric collection features Neanderthal stone tools from Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, a pair of early Bronze Age gold arm-ring from Malpas in Cheshire and the incredibly well-preserved early Bronze Age wooden shovel from Alderley Edge. Also notable are an Iron Age gold neck-ring or torc from Burnley and an iron slave-chain, still in working order, from Bigbury in Kent.
From the Roman fort at Castlefield in the centre of Manchester comes a piece of broken pottery inscribed with a word square, which may be the earliest evidence for Christianity in northern Britain. A Roman soldier's bronze diploma or citizenship award, dated 27 February 158 AD, was found on the beach at Ravenglass in Cumbria.
The Whitworth Park excavation provides the most recent objects such as children’s toys lost in the boating lake when the site was a significant Victorian and Edwardian amenity.