Anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday Seeks to Redefine the Meaning of Matriarchy In Women at the Center, New Book Detailing Her Research among the Minangkabau
01 MAY 2002, PHILADELPHIA, PA—For the last century, historians, anthropologists and other scholars have searched both human history and the continents to find a matriarchy-a society where the power was in the hands of women, not men. Most have concluded that a genuine matriarchy does not exist, perhaps may never have existed.
Anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday disagrees. After years of research among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia, she has accepted that group's own self-labeling, as a "matriarchate," or matriarchy. The problem, she asserts, lies in Western cultural notions of what a matriarchy "should" look like-patriarchy's female-twin.
First Example Ever Found of These Special-Use Bricks, Known from Ancient Texts to be Used in Childbirth
01 JULY 2002, PHILADELPHIA, PA—University of Pennsylvania Museum archaeologists have discovered a 3700-year-old "magical" birth brick inside the palatial residence of a Middle Kingdom mayor's house just outside Abydos, in southern Egypt. The colorfully decorated mud birth brick-the first ever found-is one of a pair that would have been used to support a woman's feet while squatting during actual childbirth.
Symposium Offered in Celebration of "Worlds Intertwined: Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans," Permanent New Suite of Classical World Galleries
28 FEBRUARY 2003, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The Etruscan civilization, the preeminent culture of central Italy from 800-100 BC, has attracted a renaissance of interest among scholars and the public in recent years. From the Etruscan alphabet and the language, to the furnishings, architecture, fashion and city planning initiatives, these inventive pre-Roman people have left an enduring legacy. They shocked Greeks and Romans with the freedom of their women, their technological prowess, and their control of the sea—and then gradually lost it all to Rome's military campaigns. Yet, with little in the way of actual Etruscan texts preserved, the cultural artifacts that remain—strange, beautiful, sometimes seductive or frightening—pose challenges to archaeologists and historians eager to tease out a better understanding of the Etruscan contributions to the Roman culture that eventually subsumed them.
Conservation Made Possible in Part with IMLS Matching Grant
01 JUNE 2003, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Seven ancient ceramic coffins from the southern Mesopotamian site of Nippur in present-day Iraq - all part of the University of Pennsylvania Museum's Nippur collection and the only such coffins in the United States - will receive the conservation they need, thanks in part to a prestigious matching grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency. The year-long conservation project will be carried out by independent conservator Julia Lawson with the advice and assistance of Virginia Greene, the Museum's Senior Conservator, and Dr. Richard Zettler, Penn Museum's Associate Curator in the Near East section.
Find Provides New Insight into Widespread Trade, Cultural Exchange in Region
03 JUNE 2003, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Excavating at the ancient town of Gilund in southern Rajasthan, India, one of the largest sites of the little-known Ahar-Banas culture, archaeologists led by teams from the University of Pennsylvania Museum and Deccan College, Pune, India have discovered a bin filled with more than 100 seal impressions dating to 2100-1700 B.C. The existence of the seals, and their particular styles, offer surprising new evidence for the apparent complexity of this non-literate, late and post-Indus Civilization-era culture, according to Dr. Gregory Possehl, UPM curator and excavation co-director.
16 JANUARY 2004, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective, a new book by Dr. Gregory Possehl, Asian Section Curator of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, has been awarded the prestigious Choice Magazine Award for Outstanding Academic Book for 2003.
A leading expert in the history and archaeology of the ancient Indus Civilization, Dr. Possehl has been engaged in archaeological research in India and Pakistan since 1964. His research interests have taken him from Iron Age megaliths to Mesolithic encampments, and he has directed excavations at Rojdi in Gujarat and, currently, Gilund in southern Rajasthan, India. In addition to his curatorial position at UPM, Dr. Possehl is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.
25 MARCH 2004, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has been awarded a three year, $301,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support an innovative research experience for undergraduates: "Native Voices, Past and Present, Studies of Native American Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology."
Over the duration of the grant, 36 undergraduate students--18 Native American students and 18 University of Pennsylvania students--will have the opportunity to develop and engage in original research projects using the Museum's rich North American Indian collections, including ethnographic and archaeological materials.
Dig at Abydos Yields Important Discoveries About Egypt's First Dynasty
25 MARCH 2004, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The practice of sacrificial burials at First Dynasty (ca. 2950-2775 BC) royal tombs and enclosures has been suggested by Egyptologists since the late 19th century but never proved. However, archeologists working in the desert sands of Abydos, Egypt - more than eight miles from the river Nile - have uncovered strong evidence to suggest that the custom did exist. Moreover, recent excavations have also discovered two new mortuary enclosures - and the royal owner of one has been positively identified.
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.