Past Special Exhibition at the Penn Museum

Polynesia (from the Greek for “many islands”) is a series of islands and island groups widely scattered across the central and south Pacific Ocean.

Raven's Journey interpreted the traditions of the Tlingit, Athapaskan, and Eskimo groups that have inhabited western North America for centuries.

Aerial landscapes of sites in Peru, Mexico, Egypt, Greece, England, and 11 of the fifty United States—all photographed from a single engine Cessna by intrepid co-pilot, explorer and internationally-renowned photographer Marilyn Bridges, were the subject of this exhibition. The photographs, taken in the 1980s and presented in large-scale Silver gelatin print format, included scenes of ancient and more contemporary landscapes. The exhibit featured images of famous ancient sites of Machu Picchu, Peru; Chichen Itza and Yaxchilan, Mexico; Giza, Egypt; and Corinth, Greece, seen alongside more contemporary landscapes: a baseball playing field in New York, an industrial scene in Houston, Texas, and oil refinery in Greece.

"If you can imagine and see a community in a different way, you can create a community in a different way." Reverend Patrick Cabello Hansel, Founder of the Goodlands®

In the late 1800s, the University of Pennsylvania began excavating the ancient city of Nippur, located in present-day Iraq.

Penn Museum's unique collection of brilliantly painted Chama polychromes opens a window into the lives of the ordinary Maya of 1,300 years ago, and the way they dealt with the challenge of forced change. More than 150 objects convey vibrant evidence of ancient Maya life, as revealed by amazing archaeological discovery and scientific analysis.

One of the great archaeological illustrators of the 20th century, Piet de Jong spent the summer of 1957, at the invitation of excavation director Rodney Young, working at the renowned site of Gordion in central Turkey. While de Jong set about on a series of watercolors reconstructing wall paintings from a previously uncovered "Painted House," ca. 500 BCE, Penn Museum excavators were making a now-famous discovery: they penetrated a large, exceptionally well-preserved grave mound, known as the "Midas Mound" for its association with the legendary King Midas and his family. There, they found a wealth, not of gold, but of royal artifacts and information about the Phrygian people of 2700 years ago.

The culture and cultural perspectives of four Native American peoples of the Southwest are the focus of this exhibition, which opened 20 May 1995. Specifically, it examines the sacred and cultural connection that the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, and Apache have with their environment. It features an Apache tipi, a Navajo hooghan framework, an illuminated walk-in sky theater, and more than 300 objects from the Museum's extensive archaeological and ethnographic Southwest collections.

In this exhibition of 45 black and white images, photographer Andrea Baldeck explores the territory, often called "between heaven and earth," encompassing ethnic, cultural and historical Tibet, which stretches from the western Himalaya mountains of Ladakh (northern India), to Bhutan, the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and east into Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. Her photographs offer a compelling look at an ancient, mostly Buddhist world through portraiture, landscapes, architecture and still life. These invite the viewer to share in her personal, often intimate, journey, exploring the texture and rhythm of human life in these harsh and remote mountains, once isolated, now increasingly exposed to the forces of societal change in an ever more interconnected world.

Jeffery Newbury's photographs of the Tarim Basin mummies define these ancient people for our age, and probably for all time.

Fang! The Killing Tooth explored the biology of the “killing” canine and the history of the vampire myth. Through objects, video, and text, visitors compared fangs from a range of different animals, investigated stories of ancient blood-sucking beings, and even found a new perspective on their own killing teeth.

March 23, 2010 - June 28, 2010 Commissioned through The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, and co-curated by Jody Clowes, Jo Lauria, John Perreault and Judith Tannenbaum, Ceramic Interactions is sited at three Philadelphia institutions (the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Eastern State Penitentiary and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). Ceramic Interactions involved the commissioning of new works (or, in the case of the Penn Museum, inclusion of an artist’s recent works), in response to a piece, collection, or space housed within each venue. The artists' work offers each institution—and its public—an expanded or new context for seeing, interpreting or experiencing their collections or the way they perceive their space.

Long before the Bible, the story of a "Great Flood" was written on clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia, in what is now modern-day Iraq. Penn Museum features an exceptional collection of ancient Mesopotamian artifacts and some of the world's earliest literature on clay tablets in this two case display. The sustaining and destroying powers of water in the region that some have called the "cradle of civilization" is considered. The objects on display include what is perhaps the most famous of the Sumerian "Flood Tablets," featuring the story of King Ziusudra who builds a boat to save his family from a great flood. Trescher Entrance.

Secrets of the Silk Road explores the history of the vast desert landscape of the Tarim Basin, located in Western China, and the mystery of the peoples who lived there. Located at the crossroads between East and West, oasis towns within the Tarim Basin were key way stations for anyone traveling on the legendary Silk Road. Extraordinarily well-preserved human remains found at these sites reveal ancient people of unknown descent. Caucasian in appearance, these mummies challenge long-held beliefs about the history of the area, and early human migration. The material excavated suggests the area was active for thousands of years, with diverse languages, lifestyles, religions, and cultures present. This exhibition provides a chance to investigate this captivating material to begin to uncover some of the secrets of the Silk Road. Read the press release

Considered to be the world’s greatest long-distance runners, the Tarahumara people live within the dramatic canyons of the Sierra Madre in Chihuahua, Mexico.

In the weeks, months, and years following the events of September 11, 2001, archaeologists and physical anthropologists excavated the site of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. Recall where you were that morning while viewing excavated and recovered artifacts from Ground Zero in this small display organized in conjunction with The National September 11 Memorial Museum. 

What in the World is an interactive installation created by multi-disciplinary artist Pablo Helguera as part of the Philagrafika contemporary art festival.

April 30 through July 31, 2011 The rug weavers of Afghanistan, long renowned for their artistry, depict on their rugs the world that they see. Like television news, their rugs “report” current events. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and throughout more than three decades of international and civil war, Afghan weavers have borne witness to disaster by weaving unprecedented images of battle and weaponry into their rugs. Flowers have turned into bullets, landmines, and hand grenades.

MAYA 2012: Lords of Time leads visitors on a journey through the Maya’s time-ordered universe, expressed through their intricate calendar systems, and the power wielded by their divine kings, the astounding "lords of time."

More than 300 square feet and nearly 2,000 years old, this ancient Roman floor mosaic is one of the world’s largest and best preserved. Discovered in 1996 in Lod, Israel (near Tel Aviv), the "Lod Mosaic" is often characterized as an archaeological gem. Learn about the mosaic's discovery, history and conservation in this limited time exhibition. See this unique masterpiece in its final United States venue before it travels to the Louvre in Paris and eventually becomes the permanent focus of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center in Israel.

June 2, 2013 – March 2, 2014 Propaganda is used to mobilize people in times of war. Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster presents 33 posters, most targeting Africans and African-American civilians in times of war. These carefully designed works of art were aimed at mobilizing people of color in war efforts, even as they faced oppression and injustice in their homelands. Witness changing messages on race and politics through propaganda from the American Civil War to the African Independence movement in this innovative, world-premiere exhibition.

The Penn Museum, in association with the 2014–15 Penn Humanities Forum on Color, offers two very different small exhibitions that explore aspects of color—one looking at the role played by colored stone and marble in material culture throughout the ages, the other exploring the role of color through the lens of art, drawing, and photography in the fields of archaeology and anthropology.

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