Past Special Exhibition at the Penn Museum

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016 Penn Humanities Forum on Sex. Thirty objects from the Museum’s vast international collections are presented in this survey; like the Native American pipe bag decorated with the Lakota two spirit, or third gender, the phallus-shaped ancient Roman bronze pendant, and the “love stick” from Micronesia, each object has a story of its own.


Where did “corn” begin? It was a long journey. From its earliest days as an important crop in the Americas to its current presence in food and drink around the world, corn has impacted human health–for better or worse– for thousands of years.


A centerpiece exhibition, Sacred Writings: Extraordinary Texts of the Biblical World, highlights the many ways the Bible—and stories akin to those in the Bible—have been represented over time and across continents.


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.


The Penn Museum's Islamic Near East Gallery features art and objects from the Islamic world of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Egypt. Collected in the early 20th century, the architectural elements featured in this gallery contain intricate geometric designs.  Gallery Highlights Tile, Turkey. Museum Object Number: NEP59 Bronze Candlestick, Persia. Museum Object Number: NEP12 Plate, Kashan, Iran. Museum Object Number: NEP19 Learn More Islamic Civilization counts its beginnings from 620 CE with the first year of the hijra or the migration of the prophet Muhammad and his small band of followers from Mecca to Medina. From there, the third of the great monotheistic Abrahamic faiths of the Old World grew into an empire through conquest and conversion to take over the southern provinces of the old Roman empire and entire Persian empire. So, by 750 CE, the new polity centered on Baghdad stretched from the Atlantic to the Indus River. In subsequent waves of conquest and conversion, the Islamic religion and civilization, if not the original single continuous state, has expanded to stretch from South and South-East Asia into Sub-Saharan Africa and southeastern Europe. It has still a dynamic force of a religious ideology, although it is no longer a single polity or country. What is presented in this gallery, however, is a much narrower range, coming from the central lands of the Islamic world: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Egypt. These are the very regions where the more ancient cultures of Sumer and Assyria, of Pharaonic Egypt, of Neolithic and Bronze Age Iran, and of Asia Minor were discovered. The active engagement of the researchers and archaeologists from the Penn Museum over the last hundred years did not focus for the most part on the sites and material culture of the Islamic medieval periods. Driven by the excitement of the discovery of even more ancient cultures, they were often happy to ignore this intervening civilization that overlay the earlier ones. Thus, its archaeological expeditions as well as its collections have ventured only occasionally into the medieval periods after 700 CE. The Islamic Gallery itself a reference to the times when the expeditions from the Penn Museum would land in late 19th and 20th century Cairo and Istanbul to begin their trips to sites of more ancient origin. As a parallel activity, some of these researchers, or more likely their friends and supporters, would collect what was available in antique shops in these capitals. What is built into the floor and walls of this room represents the architectural salvage of old palaces, monuments and houses. For example, the two marble fountains, the great door and the stained glass windows would have been part of a great hall and was very much part of gracious living quarters of the Cairene urban elite of the 14th through 18th centuries. One intrepid researcher, Erich Schmidt, however, was different. When initiating archaeological research in Iran in the 1930’s he took on the archaeological investigation of sites of all epochs. Barnstorming from site to important site in his wife’s airplane, called the “Spirit of Iran” he managed to work on the following sites, all in the same years: pre-historic Cheshme Ali and Tepe Hissar, the famous site of Achaemenid Persepolis that was destroyed by Alexander, Parthian and Sassanid Hecatompolis that lay across the Silk Road, and two major urban centers of the medieval Islamic world, Rayy and Damghan that were destroyed by the Mongol invasions of the 1220’s.


Spectacular finds at the Precolumbian cemetery of Sitio Conte in central Panama shed light on a mysterious and complex society that thrived there more than 1,000 years ago. A high chieftain's grave site is featured; excavated by Penn Museum archaeologist J. Alden Mason in 1940, the burial contained glittering gold adornments and plaques embossed with animal-human motifs, pottery, tools, and weapons. This new exhibition offers contemporary perspectives on the people and culture from a range of scholars and scientists.


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