01 JANUARY 2005, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Chemical analyses of ancient organics absorbed, and preserved, in pottery jars from the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China, have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit was being produced as early as 9,000 years ago, approximately the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East.
In addition, liquids more than 3,000 years old, remarkably preserved inside tightly lidded bronze vessels, were chemically analyzed. These vessels from the capital city of Anyang and an elite burial in the Yellow River Basin, dating to the Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties (ca. 1250-1000 B.C.), contained specialized rice and millet “wines.” The beverages had been flavored with herbs, flowers, and/or tree resins, and are similar to herbal wines described in the Shang dynasty oracle inscriptions.
Penn School of Engineering Joins Forces with Penn Museum, External Collaborators to Develop New Prototype Data Retrieval Systems for Archaeological Sites
06 JANUARY 2005, PHILADELPHIA, PA—University of Pennsylvania Museum archaeologists working at the renowned ancient site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia--a site sometimes called the "American Stonehenge"--have joined forces with a team of engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists and anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Computer and Information Science, School of Engineering, the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies, University of Arkansas, and the Department of Anthropology, University of Denver, to begin a large-scale, subsurface surveying project using equipment and techniques that may one day serve as a model for future archaeological efforts worldwide.
31 JANUARY 2005, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Dr. Gregory L. Possehl, Curator of the Asian section, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, was made an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Archaeology Society in recognition of his life-long contribution to India archaeology, especially the study of the enigmatic Harappan Civilization (2500-1900 B.C.). The award was confired at the Society's annual meeting held at the Rai Uma Nath Bali Auditorium in Lucknow, India, 28-31 December 2004.
Artifacts are Part of Famous Museum Collection from the Site of Ur and the Royal Tombs at Ur in Iraq
02 AUGUST 2005, PHILADELPHIA, PA—More than 800 copper, copper-alloy and iron objects, all about 4,500 years old and excavated in the 1920s and early 1930s at Ur (a site in modern-day Iraq), and at the royal tombs of Ur , are receiving the conservation treatment and rehousing that they need, thanks to a competitive grant awarded to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology from the Conservation Project Support program of the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
08 SEPTEMBER 2005, PHILADELPHIA, PA—On September 7, eight adventurous archaeologists are scheduled to set sail on a voyage from Oman to India on the Magan, a small boat made of reeds covered with black bitumen tar, as they seek to recreate the voyages of ancient mariners of 4,500 years ago--and prove that it is possible to travel across a 500-mile stretch of the sea in a boat made with Bronze Age technology, propelled by the wind and navigated by the sun and the stars. The reconstructed "Black Boat of Magan" was undertaken by the Joint Hadd Project of which the University of Pennsylvania Museum's curator of the Asian Section, Dr. Gregory L. Possehl. is a co-director, along with colleagues Dr. Maurizio Tosi at the University of Bologna (who is the acknowledged "god father" of the Magan Boat) and Dr. Serge Cleuziou of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. Joined with their Omani collaborators, and Naval Architect Tom Vosmer, they have experimented for over five years with ancient reed boat technology and feel that the current craft is ready to go to sea.
02 JANUARY 2007, PHILADELPHIA, PA Dr. Naomi Miller Senior Research Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, was selected to be a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer for July 2007 through June 2009. Dr. Miller, an archaeobotanist who has worked extensively on Penn Museum archaeological excavations and other projects throughout the Near East, will offer her newest research and insights in three lecture programs offered to Sigma Xi members, students and the public: "Past, Present and Future of the Landscape in the Land of King Midas: Gordion, Turkey"; "Has it Always looked like This? Long-term Vegetation Changes in the Near East"; and "People and Plants: The Present as Key to the Past, Ethnoarchaeology in an Iranian Village."
14 FEBRUARY 2007, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The origins of Greek cult and Greek athletics--long a subject of fascination for Greek scholars--may be found at the mountaintop sanctuary of Zeus on Mt. Lykaion in Arcadia, Greece. Famous in antiquity as the site of an open air ash altar to Zeus and athletic contests rivaling those at nearby Olympia, this sanctuary is undergoing new excavations and study, in an international project, the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project, that is a joint collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the University of Arizona, under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, with Greek collaborators, representatives of the Greek Archaeological Service.
16 APRIL 2007, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Two ancient skulls, circa 2600 BCE, one bedecked with gold ornaments, one with a copper helmet, traveled from storage at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to the Radiology Department at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, for a state-of-the-art CAT scan procedure.
21 May 2007, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Long-time national news journalist Dan Rather and a television crew came to Penn Museum to tape interviews and footage for the HDNet Dan Rather Reports program. In Penn Museum's Archives, Mr. Rather interviewed Dr. Miguel Diaz-Barriga, Professor of Anthropology at Swarthmore College, and Dr. Jerry Sabloff, Penn Museum's Interim Director and an expert on the ancient Maya, for an in-depth report on the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas, Mexico--including the history of the indigenous Maya people of that region.
National Science Foundation Awards Team a $185,000 Research Grant
22 AUGUST 2007, PHILADELPHIA, PA—In Africa today, cattle pastoralism and dairy farming are principal livelihoods for millions of people, integrated into most aspects of cultural life. In the last few years, harsh and unpredictable climate fluctuations in East Africa—probable signs of global warming—have affected the region’s pastoralists, and threaten their long-term ability to continue their semi-nomadic way of life. Surprisingly, until recent decades little research had been conducted on the origins and spread of cattle domestication across that huge continent.
International Partnership Project Seeks to Fill in the Blanks of Southeast Asian Prehistory
19 OCTOBER 2007, PHILADELPHIA, PA—As archaeologists in the last half century have set about reconstructing the prehistory of Southeast Asia, data from one country—centrally located Laos—was conspicuously missing. Little archaeology has occurred in Laos since before World War II, and beginning in the mid-1970s, Laos shut its doors completely to outside researchers. International scholars had to content themselves with information from excavation and survey work mostly from neighboring Thailand.
New Chemical Analyses Take Confirmation Back 500 Years and Reveal that the Impetus for Cacao Cultivation was an Alcoholic Beverage
13 NOVEMBER 2007, PHILADELPHIA, PA—–The earliest known use of cacao––the source of our modern day chocolate––has been pushed back more than 500 years, to somewhere between 1400 and 1100 B.C.E., thanks to new chemical analyses of residues extracted from pottery excavated at an archaeological site at Puerto Escondido in Honduras. The new evidence also indicates that, long before the flavor of the cacao seed (or bean) became popular, it was the sweet pulp of the chocolate fruit, used in making a fermented (5% alcohol) beverage, which first drew attention to the plant in the Americas.
Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project Finds Early Activity Atop Arcadia’s Famous Mountain
22 JANUARY 2008, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The Greek traveler, Pausanias, living in the second century, CE, would probably recognize the spectacular site of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion, and particularly the altar of Zeus. At 4,500 feet above sea level, atop the altar provides a breathtaking, panoramic vista of Arcadia.
20 MARCH 2008, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Homer, living centuries before the Classical era of Athens, is renowned for his epic tales of an even earlier time, when the Mycenaeans of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1600–1100 B.C.)—with a rich warrior aristocracy and wide-ranging trade—came to rule the land and the seas.
Archaeologists have uncovered great Mycenaean cities, like Mycenae and Pylos, extraordinary circular burial chambers, elegant frescoes, even written language, as well as widespread evidence of Mycenaean expansion and trade—but no harbors or port towns to help them understand the far-flung connections, or the rapid expansion and equally sudden demise, of this ancient Greek culture—until now.
07 APRIL 2008, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The Olympic torch, long the symbol of world unity, hasn’t had a smooth run thus far this year, as it makes its way to the 2008 summer games in Beijing, China. The flame was extinguished three times in Paris on Monday, April 7, as Pro-Tibetan protesters made their presence known. The disturbances put a halt to the torch relay in France, as security officials placed the flame on a bus to transport it to its end point in the country.
01 AUGUST 2008, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has received a four-year, $300,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to organize and run a cross-borders, international collaborative research program in Laos and Thailand. “Strengthening the Future of Southeast Asian Archaeology: Investigating the Prehistoric Settlement of the Mekong Middle Basin,” will be directed by Dr. Joyce White, Senior Research Scientist in the Asian Section at Penn Museum, co-Director of the Middle Mekong Archaeology Project since 2001, and Director of the Museum’s Ban Chiang, Thailand Project since 1982.
18 AUGUST 2008, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The Penn Cultural Heritage Center, dedicated to expanding both scholarly and public awareness, discussion, and debate about the complex issues surrounding the world’s rich—and endangered—cultural heritage, has been established at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia.
Dr. Richard M. Leventhal, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Curator, American Section at Penn Museum, and former Williams Director of Penn Museum, is founder and director of the new Penn Cultural Heritage Center. PCHC draws upon the expertise of the Museum’s curators, researchers, graduate students, other Penn department faculty, and outside scholars, for its programs. More than a year in the planning, the new Center has already piloted some spring 2008 programs for law enforcement professionals. It launches its public programming initiatives beginning in the fall of 2008.
14 DECEMBER 2008, PHILADELPHIA, PA—“I like the variety,” said Erika Durham CT Technologist, Department of Radiology, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “These are very different populations from what I work with during the week. And just the whole thing—helping science—that is cool.”
For about one year, Ms. Durham has been one of HUP’s CT technologists assisting scientists at the University of Pennsylvania Museum with a major, National Science Foundation funded project to cat scan the Museum’s skeletal collections of thousands of human and primate specimens, as well as collections from Columbia University, the American Museum of Natural History—and, on this early Sunday morning—a collection of skulls from the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
Project Field Director David Gilman Romano Offers Update at January 27 Lecture "The Search for Zeus: The Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project"
21 JANUARY 2009, PHILADELPHIA, PA—In the third century BCE, the Greek poet Callimachus wrote a 'Hymn to Zeus' asking the ancient, and most powerful, Greek god whether he was born in Arcadia on Mt. Lykaion or in Crete on Mt. Ida.
A Greek and American team of archaeologists working on the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project believe they have at least a partial answer to the poet’s query. New excavation evidence indicates that Zeus' worship was established on Mt. Lykaion as early as the Late Helladic period, if not before, more than 3,200 years ago. According to Dr. David Gilman Romano, Senior Research Scientist, Mediterranean Section, University of Pennsylvania Museum, and one of the project’s co-directors, it is likely that a memory of the cult's great antiquity survived there, leading to the claim that Zeus was born in Arcadia.
10 MARCH 2009, PHILADELPHIA, PA—In earlier years this exhibition might have been only a display of interesting objects. Now, breakthroughs in our ability to read Maya hieroglyphs, new data from new archaeological discoveries, and new scientific techniques allow us to look at the artifacts in this exhibition from a fresh perspective. Scientific research leading up to and incorporated in to this exhibition include: