Press Releases: Research
Ancient Mummies Meet Modern Medicine with "The Anatomy of the Mummy"Special Issue of The Anatomical Record Co-edited by Penn Museum Curator Janet Monge, Publication Follows EarlierPenn Museum Symposium Exploring Range of Techniques to Study Mummies PHILADELPHIA, PA, 2015- Mummies are fascinating to the general public. It turns out they are fascinating to scientists, too. Anthropologists, archaeologists and doctors and researchers in the medical community have been coming together for decades, now, engaging in interdisciplinary exploration of mummies from all over the world. What have they learned? What can modern medical techniques applied to long deceased humans tell us—and what techniques and practices hold the best promise for scholars eager to unwrap more about the human experience in the past?
Penn Museum's Penn Cultural Heritage Center Part of International Consortium Seeking Ways to Take Concrete Action to Preserve Ancient Artifacts March 5, 2015—Syria's renowned Ma'arra Mosaic Museum, significantly damaged and in danger of collapse as a result of the country's long and ongoing civil war, has undergone emergency conservation and protection efforts by Syrian cultural heritage professionals and volunteers. The emergency project, first conceived during a Syrian cultural heritage emergency workshop in the summer of 2014, was a months' long initiative of an international group of organizations: the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project (SHOSI), which is a consortium of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum; the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution; the Geospatial Technologies Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Shawnee State University, The Day After—a Syrian NGO; and the U.S. Institute of Peace. The consortium planned the project, coordinated necessary governmental approvals in the war-torn country, and paid for the materials required to carry out the work with support from the J. M. Kaplan Fund.
Newly Identified Ancient Skeleton from Ur to be Focus of Study,Research For Penn Students Taking a Course at the Penn Museum PHILADELPHIA, February 2015—Penn students in a new course, Living World in Archaeological Science (Anthropology 267/567), offered in the Penn Museum's new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials will be learning about scientific analysis of skeletal remains via a most extraordinary specimen: a very ancient, very rare human skeleton originally from the world famous site of Ur (in modern day Iraq), newly "rediscovered" in the Museum's storage. The students, working with Dr. Janet Monge, Penn Museum professor and Penn Museum Curator of Physical Anthropology, will be learning right along with Museum scholars as they study the skeleton, learn more about how it was excavated, and its place in the ancient history of the Near East.
Newly Discovered Pharaoh at Abydos, Part of Forgotten Egyptian Dynasty,Offers New Answers, More Questions, About Egypt 3,600 Years Ago FEBRUARY 26, 2015—He may have led a king's life, but new forensic evidence gleaned from the remains of Pharaoh Senebkay indicates that the Egyptian ruler died in battle—the earliest known pharaoh to have done so—viciously attacked by multiple assailants. Last year, the tomb of king Senebkay (ca. 1650–1600 BCE) was discovered at the site of Abydos by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Museum working in association with Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities. Now the team led by Dr. Josef Wegner of the Penn Museum has completed a detailed study of Senebkay's skeleton, as well as the remains of several other kings whose tombs have been discovered nearby. The 2014-15 research is supported by the Penn Museum, with additional support from the National Geographic Society Expeditions Council. "Forensic analysis has provided some new answers about the life, and death, of this ancient Egyptian king," noted Dr. Wegner, "while raising a host of new questions about both Senebkay, and the Second Intermediate Period of which he was a part."
High-resolution satellite images reveal the condition of six ancient Syrian sites with major historical and cultural significance REPORT: www.aaas.org/geotech/culturalheritage-SyrianTWHS-122014.html Four of six major archaeological sites in Syria have been heavily looted and damaged, according to a AAAS analysis of high-resolution satellite images that documents the extent of the destruction. The report analyzes six of the 12 sites that Syria has nominated as World Heritage Sites: Dura Europos, Ebla, Hama’s Waterwheels, Mari, Raqqa, and Ugarit. A forthcoming report will analyze the additional six sites. “As we continue to study the conditions at Syria’s important cultural sites, we have observed significant destruction that is largely the result of conflict. However, unlike our previous analysis of Syria’s World Heritage Sites, we’re seeing a lot of damage that appears to be the result of widespread looting,” said Susan Wolfinbarger, director of the AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project, which authored the report. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center and the Smithsonian Institution also contributed to the research.
NOTE: The Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center is involved in this international effort. REPORT — http://www.aaas.org/geotech/culturalheritage-SyrianWHS-92014.htmlEVENT — http://uscbs.org/news/ In war-torn Syria, five of six World Heritage sites now "exhibit significant damage" and some structures have been "reduced to rubble," according to new high-resolution satellite image analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS analysis, offering the first comprehensive look at the extent of damage to Syria's priceless cultural heritage sites, was completed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) and the Smithsonian Institution, and in cooperation with the Syrian Heritage Task Force. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the analysis provides authoritative confirmation of previous on-the-ground reports of damage to individual sites.
The Penn Museum Invites Visitors to Share in Recent "Re-Discovery"Rare 6,500-Year-Old Skeleton from Ur Excavation Site in IraqMoves to "In the Artifact Lab" Conservation Project Space Saturday, August 30 PHILADELPHIA, PA AUGUST 2014—Following an early August announcement of a "rediscovered" find in a Physical Anthropology storage room—a rare, fragile, but largely intact 6,500-year-old human skeleton from the famous Ur excavations in what is now Iraq—the Penn Museum will be moving the skeleton to a public space beginning Saturday, August 30.
Can Offer New Insights into Human History at Famous Ur Excavation Site in Iraq Philadelphia, PA Summer 2014—Sometimes the best archaeological discoveries aren't made in the field. Scientists at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia have re-discovered an important find in their own storage rooms, a complete human skeleton about 6,500 years old. The mystery skeleton had been stored in a coffin-like box for 85 years, all trace of its identifying documentation gone. This summer, a project to digitize old records from a world-famous excavation brought that documentation, and the history of the skeleton, back to light.
Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center, Smithsonian Institution Join ForcesTo Offer Emergency Workshop, Training, Support for Syrian Museum Collections JULY 2014—In addition to the high toll that Syria’s four-year-old civil war has had on its people and infrastructure, Syria’s cultural heritage has been and continues to be destroyed at an unprecedented rate. World Heritage sites like the historic city of Aleppo and Krak des Chevaliers, as well as medieval Christian cemeteries and numerous archaeological sites and museums, have been subjected to extensive raiding and looting. In an effort to help stem the loss of the region’s significant cultural heritage, Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., in cooperation with the Syrian Interim Government’s Heritage Task Force, have come together to offer assistance for museum curators, heritage experts, and civilians working to protect cultural heritage inside Syria. A three-day training program, “Emergency Care for Syrian Museum Collections,” focusing on safeguarding high risk collections, was completed in late June; additional training programs are being planned, pending funding.
Discovery Provides Evidence of a Forgotten Egyptian Dynasty from 3,600 Years Ago PHILADELPHIA, PA, January 2014—Archaeologists working at the southern Egyptian site of Abydos have discovered the tomb of a previously unknown pharaoh: Woseribre Senebkay—and the first material proof of a forgotten Abydos Dynasty, ca. 1650–1600 BC. Working in cooperation with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, a team from the Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania, discovered king Senebkay's tomb close to a larger royal tomb, recently identified as belonging to a king Sobekhotep (probably Sobekhotep I, ca. 1780 BC) of the 13th Dynasty. The discovery of pharaoh Senebkay's tomb is the culmination of work that began during the summer of 2013 when the Penn Museum team, led by Dr. Josef Wegner, Egyptian Section Associate Curator of the Penn Museum, discovered a huge 60-ton royal sarcophagus chamber at South Abydos. The sarcophagus chamber, of red quartzite quarried and transported to Abydos from Gebel Ahmar (near modern Cairo), could be dated to the late Middle Kingdom, but its owner remained unidentified. Mysteriously, the sarcophagus had been extracted from its original tomb and reused in a later tomb—but the original royal owner remained unknown when the summer season ended.