Physical Anthropology Section

The Physical Anthropology Section curates extensive skeletal human and primate collections from all around the world. In total, approximately 10,000 individuals in various states of preservation with both historic and archaeological materials.

The most extensive historic collection is the Samuel Morton collection of over 1500 human crania amassed in the middle of the 19th Century.

Two large skeletal collections, both from Iran, form the core of the collection: Tepe Hissar (excavated in 1931 by Erich Schmidt) and Hasanlu (excavated from 1957 to 1977 under the leadership of Robert Dyson). Both collections contain over 250 well preserved skeletons each.

Close up of the cheek bone of a human skull.  The small fractures  - hairline almost horizontal cracks under the eye socket - indicates   that this individual suffered a blow to the face at around the time of   death. Final exam time.  A culmination of a year's study of the human   skeleton, students are asked to identify the age at death of a skeleton as well as other forensically important features like sex, height, and population affinity.In 2002, the Penn Museum began to develop a large CT scan database of the collections funded by the National Science Foundation - PI Thomas Schoenemann and co-PI Janet Monge; award number: 0447271. Over 3000 skeletal elements (mostly crania) have been CT scanned to date.

See a short review of the history of the collection

See a complete database listing

Read about the Morton Skull Collection
Lewis JE, DeGusta D, Meyer MR, Monge JM, Mann AE, et al. (2011) The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias. PLoS Biol 9(6): e1001071. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001071


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(215) 898-4000


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