Twelve midshipmen of the University of Pennsylvania NROTC (Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps), seniors from the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Drexel University, came to the Penn Museum early Monday morning for an intensive tour. Their guide, through galleries featuring ancient history and archaeology of Egypt, Mesopotamia, ancient Rome, and Anatolia (via The Golden Age of King Midas special exhibition) was Dr. C. Brian Rose, Curator-in-charge of the Mediterranean Section, Midas exhibition curator, and former President of the Archaeological Institute of America.
Lieutenant Brian Miller, NROTC Instructor at Penn, explained his rationale for bringing the students: “Learning about other countries’ cultures and prior histories is very important as a military officer, as we are charged with conducting operations or working with partner nations that have very different cultural backgrounds from our own. Dr. Rose was kind enough to spend time with us illuminating the histories and cultures of the Near East, which is an area of the world that many of our students will find themselves in within the next few years.”
Dr. Rose has been a frequent guest speaker on cultural heritage issues at numerous U.S. military bases over the last 10 years, and Lieutenant Miller noted that his knowledge about cultural heritage preservation issues in the Near East was especially appreciated. “Part of the job of a military officer operating in foreign countries is to ensure military operations do not harm the very important cultural heritage of a region, either by our own operations or by the operations of our enemies.”
“Provenance” is a term that archaeologists speak of a great deal: the importance of knowing where an ancient object comes from, the context of how it was found, is crucial for determining how it might have been used, and what it can tell us about the ancient culture it came from. When an object is looted, archaeologists and historians lose its story, and a piece of the past.
“Dr. Rose really made it clear to us how important maintaining the security and integrity of an archaeological site is to understanding the full historical perspective of that area and time period,” Lieutenant Miller said. “The Midas Feast is probably the best way he made that clear by showing us that due to the impeccably preserved burial site at Gordion, we are able to make both the meal and the alcoholic beverage served over 2700 years ago! Amazing!”
Photos, top to bottom: in the Iraq’s Ancient Past exhibition; curator Brian Rose in The Golden Age of King Midas; in the Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery. Photos: Penn Museum.