What in the World Answers

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Q: What in the world is it?
A: These are called tsuba, hand guards for samurai swords.

Q: Where are they from?
A: Japan.

Tsuba are hand guards that fit between the hilt and blade of a samurai sword. They are interchangeable and often depict folklore and poems making them art objects in themselves and therefore highly collectible. Many include holes on the sides that a small dagger on the scabbard could be pushed through. When samurai entered the imperial court these holes were often plugged with pieces of wood to prevent any would be assassins from killing an official.

 

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Penn Museum Objects 18199A, L-120-205, 18199A.Q: What in the world is it?
A: I Cula Ni Bokola! Cannibal forks.

Q: When was it made?
A: 1874-1875

Q: Where are they from?
A: Fiji Islands.

I cula ni bokola (cannibal forks), wood, Fiji Islands, 18199A, L-120-205, 18199A collected 1874-1875 by C. D. Voy, L-120-205 collected on Vanua Levu.

Learn more about our Polynesian Gallery.



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Door SocketQ: What in the world is it?
A: Door socket

Q: When was it made?
A: Dynasty 1-2 (3000-2675 BCE)

Q: Where are they from?
A: Hierakonpolis, Egypt

Door Socket, Archaic Temple, Hierakonpolis, Dynasty 1-2 (3000-2675 BCE), Sandstone, Penn Museum Object E3959.

This stone door socket represents a bound foreign captive, whose body has been cast on the ground and who has the pivot of a door grinding into his back. His arms are tied behind him at the elbow. In ancient Egypt the king not only had to defeat foreign lands in actual battles, he also had to defeat them magically to maintain Egypt's dominance on the world stage, and in the eyes of the gods. To the Egyptians this represented the king maintaining divine harmony, Maat, against the forces of chaos, or Isfet. This door socket is from Hierakonpolis in southern Egypt, an important place because its rulers became some of the first pharaohs around 3000 BC. This door socket would have been part of a whole row of bound enemies who formed a door threshold. Traditionally, Egypt had nine symbolic enemy lands, called the "9-bows." This threshold may have once had the full 9-bows. As the pharaoh strode through the doorway he would literally kick dirt into the face of each fallen captive, and as the door opened and closed the pivot would grind into the back of the last figure, which is all we now have preserved.

Learn more about our Upper Egyptian Gallery.

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What in the World?

What in the World
What in the World? was the Penn Museum's popular weekly TV program that first aired in 1951. Unidentified objects were presented to a panel of experts who were asked to guess what in the world it was.

You can watch six of the remaining episodes on our YouTube playlist. There, you'll also find a set of contemporary videos about selected objects at the Penn Museum, created by multi-disciplinary artist Pablo Helguera. Helguera installed a What in the World interactive exhibition at the Penn Museum as part of Philagrafika 2010.

Today, the What in the World lives on through the Museum's Facebook page, where a series of weekly posts lets our fans and followers play this object ID game for themselves. Objects are generally posted early on Thursdays, with the correct answer posted later that day. Check back for a new mystery object each week!


 

 
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