University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Welcome to the Penn Museum blog. First launched in January 2009, the Museum blog now has over 800 posts covering a range of topics in the categories of Museum, Collection, Exhibitions, Research, and By Location. Here you’ll hear directly from our staff and Penn students about their work, research, experiences, and discoveries. To explore a topic of interest, please use the Blog Search function.


How does Louis Vuitton Imagine Fashion?

By: Gabrielle Niu

For the Imagine Africa project, the Penn Museum wants to know how you imagine different aspects of African cultures and societies, from religion to art to medicine. One particularly interesting theme is Imagine Fashion, which, as its name suggests, explores the sartorial trends, bodily modifications and adornments of African cultures. Perhaps one of the last […]

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Women Can Also Play Sports. (Some Sports.)

By: Gabrielle Niu

The Villa del Casale of Piazza Armerina is the 4th-5th century Roman villa that is the subject of an article of the same name by Patrizio Pensabene and Enrico Gallocchio in the 2011 summer edition of the Penn Museum’s Expedition magazine. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the villa boasts architectural remains, archaeological remains, and, most […]

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Trans-Atlantic, Virtual Archaeology

By: Gabrielle Niu

When considering of the study of the ancient world, we often think of monumental architecture, impeccably preserved urban centers or extravagant tombs, celebrated literary or religious texts. These types of sources, however, offer only a limited, and often polished, window into the lives of the social elite.  It is often necessary to dig further to […]

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Rugs and Facebook: “Battleground War Rugs from Afghanistan”

By: Gabrielle Niu

With the political uprisings that have swept across the Middle East and Northern Africa in the past few months, we see the important role that social media has played in elucidating the general public as well as in creating and portraying a cohesive national voice for the people themselves during times of conflict.  Without the […]

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Chinese Crystal Ball’s Mysterious Past

The Crystal Ball against the turquoise background of the Penn Museum's Chinese Rotunda.

By: Gabrielle Niu

Like “a limpid bubble” floating atop the crest of a silver wave, the Crystal Ball that anchors the vaulted ceiling of the Chinese rotunda has an exciting and mysterious past.  The fifty-five pounds of transparent quartz crystal is supposedly from the imperial collections of the infamous Qing dynasty Empress, Cixi (1835 – 1908). Cixi was […]

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Museums and the Social Media Scene

By: Gabrielle Niu

The New York Times is hosting a twitter conversation on Thursday, March 17th between 1pm and 2pm, Eastern time, on the subject of social media and museums. Technology officers from museums including the Met, SF MoMA, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art will discuss the role of the internet and social media […]

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Secrets of the Other Silk Road

By: Gabrielle Niu

At this point, one might be hard pressed to find a Philadelphian who has not heard of at least a whisper of the secrets hidden in sands of the ancient Silk Road. The Secrets of the Silk Road exhibition reveals and conceals secrets that are, in many ways, relevant to the entire spectrum of human […]

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Secrets of Silk Science

By: Gabrielle Niu

It is said that that the Chinese closely and successfully guarded the secrets of silk production until a Chinese princess was sent to marry the king of the Taklamakan Desert oasis, Khotan. As the story goes, this princess carried to her new kingdom silkworm cocoons hidden in her gowns and destroyed the Chinese monopoly on silk […]

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Penn Museum’s Own Piece of the Silk Road

By: Gabrielle Niu

During the height of the Silk Road and the bright beginnings of the Tang dynasty, China was ruled by one Emperor Tang Taizong. Taizong’s rule is remembered for its economic prosperity, cultural richness and cosmopolitanism, as well as for its unprecedented expansion of Chinese borders into the Western Xinjiang Regions. At the end of his life, he […]

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Exhibiting “Secrets of the Silk Road”

By: Gabrielle Niu

The Penn Museum’s Exhibits Department has been developing the interactive features for the Secrets of the Silk Road exhibition opening February 5th! Watch this video for a sneak peek into the exhibition and click here to see photos of the department at work.

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Native American Voices at the Penn Museum

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