University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Sumerian Copper Goat Head [Object of the Day #18]

Sumerian Copper Goat Head

By: Amy Ellsworth

This inlaid goat’s head was made in the Early Dynastic III (2550–2250 BCE) in Iraq. The range of the markhor goat, known for its spiraling horns, has historically covered Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India. This piece, created by lost-wax casting, is one of two goat heads acquired during the 1899–1900 campaign at […]

Bronze Figure of Silenus Riding a Wine-Skin [Object of the Day #16]

Selenus Riding a Wine-Skin

By: Amy Ellsworth

This bronze figure of Silenus riding a wine-skin is a reproduction from Penn Museum’s Wanamaker Bronze Collection. This collection includes reproductions of the bronzes found at Pompeii and Herculaneum from the National Museum of Naples. The original was made in Naples before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. Originally, the sileni (plural) were […]

Aten Relief from Amarna, Egypt [Object of the Day #15]

Aten Relief

By: Amy Ellsworth

During the Amarna period in Egypt in the 18th Dynasty, the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten lead a religious revolution that reduced Egypt’s pantheon from a multitude of Gods, to just one, the Aten, or the Sun God. This quartzite shows Akhenaten with his eldest daughter Meretaten. The block originally belonged to the pylon gateway of a […]

Hawaiian Feather Cloak [Object of the Day #14]

Hawaiian Feather Cloak

By: Amy Ellsworth

Cloak consisting of bundles of red and yellow feathers tied in overlapping rows to a netted foundation of plant fiber.  Such cloaks were items of aristocratic regalia, worn by only the highest ranking noble men in ancient Hawaii.  They were signifiers of rank, and provided sacred protection in battle.  It is thought that originally these […]

Handaxe 300,000 BCE [Object of the Day #13]


By: Amy Ellsworth

Neandertal flintknappers throughout Europe, the Near East, and Africa would prepare a core in such a way that they could produce a single flake (removed from this piece) of a specified size and shape. Bifaces are the characteristic tool of the Lower Paleolithic. Early hominids of Eurasia and Africa would shape these pieces by removing […]

Female Figurine from Iran [Object of the Day #12]

Woman Figurine

By: Amy Ellsworth

This ceramic female figurine from Tureng Tepe, Iran was made around 3500 BCE. She is a burial offering and although she is not clothed, she is adorned with many bracelets, necklaces and an elaborate headdress. Penn Museum Object #32-41-25. See this and other objects like it in the Penn Museum Collections Database.

Nail Figures from Zaire [Object of the Day #11]

Nail Figures

By: Amy Ellsworth

Meet the Nkisi N’kondi nail figures from the lower Zaire River region (Kongo). These 19th century figures, studded with nails, are used by Kongo individuals who are looking for justice, for solutions to particular problems, or for protection against malevolent forces. By promising something to the figure a client ensures the assistance of the supernatural […]

18th Century Lenape Finger Mask [Object of the Day #10]


By: Amy Ellsworth

An integral part of the (now extinct) Delaware Big House Church (xingwekaon) ceremony was the use of the Mesingw mask or carved face. It’s a representation of a powerful spirit (mesingwhalikan) that came to their ancestors centuries ago, and became incorporated into religious ceremonies. The mask would be painted red (ochre) on the right half […]

Mandarin Square [Object of the Day #9]

Mandarin Square

By: Amy Ellsworth

This satin Mandarin Square from the Qing Dynasty, China (19th century) depicts a Qilin, a mythical horse-like animal reserved for the weaves of first rank military officers. The body of Qilin has a couched filling of twisted blue thread to create a scale effect. Symbols include peaches, peonies, and fungus with bamboo. Penn Museum Object […]

Nigerian Dance Crest [Object of the Day #8]

Dance Crest

By: Amy Ellsworth

This wooden dance crest of a female head was made in the 20th century by the Ekoi or Ejagham people of Nigeria. A hide covers her face and hair and short nails stud the part above forehead. Five hornlike projections, carved in fluted style, decorate her elaborate braided hairstyle. Penn Museum Object #82-1-1. View this […]

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