University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Past Special Exhibition at the Penn Museum

"What in the World?" was open from September 8, 2017 through September 2, 2018. Penn Museum Archives’ new exhibition, offered in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania Provost Office’s Year of Innovation, looks back at the pioneering Penn Museum television program “What in the World?” which aired on WCAU Philadelphia for more than a decade, and was syndicated nationally by CBS from 1951 to 1955. By means of photographs, letters, and other documents, as well as video clips from the few surviving episodes, the exhibition looks back at the highly original game show, offered to the public in the early days of television. Hosted by Penn Museum Director Froelich Rainey, the program featured a changing panel of experts from diverse fields, including such famous people as actor Vincent Price, artist Jacques Lipschitz, and anthropologist Carleton Coon, who worked together to puzzle out where in the world an artifact from the Museum’s collections came from. Second floor Archives Corridor.


Imagine Africa was open from September 18, 2011 through September 2, 2018. How do you imagine Africa? Do you see it as the home of powerful nations? Do you think of intricately carved masks or fine art? Maybe you’re interested in the peoples living in Africa today.


The Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery is closed. The new Ancient Egypt & Nubia Galleries will open as a part of our Building Transformation. Through its closing in July 2018 in preparation for new galleries, visitors to the Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery were able to view one of the finest collections of Egyptian architecture on display in the United States. Dominating this impressive gallery was the collection’s iconic centerpiece—a thirteen-ton, red granite Sphinx of Ramesses II, 19th Dynasty, circa 1293-1185 BCE. Surrounding it were the gateway, columns, doorways and windows from the best preserved royal palace ever excavated in Egypt. The palace was built for the New Kingdom pharaoh Merenptah (r. 1213-1204 BCE) at the city of Memphis in Lower Egypt. The Penn Museum is the only museum in the world to exhibit such a significant portion of an Egyptian royal palace; in its reinstallation in the new Ancient Egypt & Nubia Galleries, the palace will be on display at full height in the upper Gallery.


Objects Speak: Media Through Time was open from March 17, 2017 through March 25, 2018. This student-curated exhibition features 17 objects, drawn from the Penn Museum’s collection and spanning more than four millennia, that impart messages expressing power, influence, and status through diverse media. Presented in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania’s Year of Media, the exhibition makes connections between media of the past and of today. Second floor elevator lobby.


The Making and Unmaking of Race was open from September 2, 2017 through January 29, 2018. Is there such a thing in humans called race?


Magic in the Ancient World was open from April 16, 2016 – September 3, 2017. Protective amulets, incantation bowls, curse tablets, powerful rings, magical stones, and anatomical votives—these objects and more, once used by ancient peoples seeking to fulfill desires through supernatural means, are featured in Magic in the Ancient World.


Timely Exhibits of Interest to Everyone was open from November 2016 through August 2017. Since its founding in 1887, the Penn Museum has featured scores of special exhibitions of archaeological and anthropological materials—each created with its own individual focus, style, and taste. Explore the records of these varied and vibrant exhibitions in Timely Exhibits of Interest to Everyone, a display of materials from the Penn Museum Archives. Timely Exhibits features catalogues, invitations, posters and dozens of photographs representing a century of Penn Museum exhibitions. Located in the second-floor Archives Corridor.


Amarna: Ancient Egypt's Place in the Sun was open from November 12, 2006 through June 18, 2017. Discover the curious story of the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna (1353 to 1336 BCE), and its royal family, the "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaten, his wife, Nefertiti, and his famous son, Tutankhamun in Amarna: Ancient Egypt's Place in the Sun . A long-term exhibit in our Egyptian galleries, Amarna features more than 100 artifacts—some of which have never before been on display—including statuary of gods, goddesses and royalty, golden jewelry as well as personal items from the royal family. Gaze upon the impressive monumental wall relief depicting the solar deity Aten, whom Akhenaten declared Egypt’s sole deity after centuries of polytheistic worship. Come face to face with statues of the boy king, Tutankhamun, who would inherit his father’s experiment, but would oversee a return to traditional beliefs and practices until his early death at the age of 19.


Human Evolution: The First 200 Million Years was open from September 18, 2011 through June 18, 2017. Discover the process of evolution and its profound impact on humans in this highly interactive exhibition. In Human Evolution, visitors have an opportunity to engage with a variety of multi-media programs, as well as view and touch more than 100 casts of fossil bones from primate and human evolutionary records. Explore the first 200 million years of human evolution in this rich exploration of physical anthropology and its relationship to evolutionary science.


Heaven on Earth: Churches of Constantinople was open from April 12, 2014 through April 30, 2017. The splendor of Byzantine Christian art—preserved through the ages in early Christian churches in both Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and the Cappadocia region of Turkey—is the focus of this expanded, large-scale photography exhibition.


Iraq's Ancient Past closed on April 8, 2017. The new Middle East Galleries are now open. Iraq's Ancient Past: Rediscovering Ur's Royal Cemetery tells the story of the discovery and excavation of the Royal Cemetery at Ur (2600-2500 BCE) in modern-day Iraq by Sir Leonard Woolley. The gallery showcases a famous gold and lapis lazuli bullheaded lyre, the "Ram in the Thicket" sculpture, and Lady Puabi's elaborate headdress and jewelry. This exhibition looks to the present and future as well, exploring the ongoing story of scientific inquiry and discovery made possible by the excavations, and the pressing issues around the preservation of Iraq's cultural heritage today.


Kourion at the Crossroads was open from March 26, 2016 – February 19, 2017. Kourion, one of the ancient cities of the island of Cyprus, is the subject of this small exhibition curated by students for the Penn “Year of Discovery”, which draws on extensive excavation records, including archival photos and video footage, and artifacts, from the Penn Museum’s excavations. Over the course of 20 years (excavations began in 1934 and continued with a war-time hiatus through 1954), Penn’s team discovered artifacts dating from the Neolithic period through Roman times—a 5,000 year span of human occupation. Today, scholars continue to build on these findings as new research and technologies lead to a deeper understanding of the people of ancient Cyprus.


The Boys of Sumer was open from March 1 through August 31, 2016. The early history of the Penn Museum’s archaeological investigations in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) is explored in this archival exhibition curated by Penn Museum Fellow Kamillia Scott. By means of letters, photographs, diaries, and drawings, visitors encounter the pioneering expeditions to Nippur (1889-1900) and Ur (1922-1934), which resulted in some of the most spectacular finds ever made by the Penn Museum, including the Temple Library at Nippur and the Royal Tombs of Ur. The Boys of Sumer features the stories of many individuals involved in the excavations (including Herman Hilprecht, John Henry Haynes, Osman Hamdi Bey, M. Louise Baker, Leonard Woolley, and even Agatha Christie), as well as rare early photographs of the Marsh Arabs of Iraq.


The Golden Age of King Midas was open from February 13 through November 27, 2016 What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his Golden Touch? The historical King Midas lived in the prosperous city of Gordion, the political and cultural capital of the Phrygians nearly 3,000 years ago. In 1957, Penn Museum archaeologists excavated a spectacular royal tomb believed to be the final resting place of King Midas’ father Gordios. Dating to ca. 740 BCE, the tomb contained a treasure trove of magnificent objects from the time of Midas. This world-exclusive exhibition, developed by the Penn Museum in partnership with the Republic of Turkey, is your chance to view more than 120 dazzling objects, including those from the royal tomb, on special loan from Turkish museums in Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya, and Gordion.


Sex: A History in 30 Objects was open from October 17, 2015 through July 31, 2016. 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.


Corn: From Ancient Crop to Soda Pop was open from April 12, 2014 through April 30, 2017. 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.


Sacred Writings was open from August 15, 2015 through November 7, 2015. 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.


The Polynesian Gallery was open from January 1982 through June 2010. 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 was open from November 1986 through February 2010. Raven's Journey interpreted the traditions of the Tlingit, Athapaskan, and Eskimo groups that have inhabited western North America for centuries.


Marilyn Bridges: The Sacred and the Secular was open from April 24, 2009 through June 21, 2009 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.


The Goodlands was open from December 10, 2009 - May 14, 2010 "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®


Archaeologists & Travelers in Ottoman Lands was open from September 26, 2010 - June 26, 2011 In the late 1800s, the University of Pennsylvania began excavating the ancient city of Nippur, located in present-day Iraq.


Painted Metaphors was open from April 5, 2009 through January 31, 2010. 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.


His Golden Touch was open from September 26, 2009 through January 10, 2010 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.


Living in Balance was open from May 20, 1995 through June 3, 2013. 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 Citizen's Garb was open from March 26 through June 20, 2010 The 1880's and 1890's were decades of tremendous upheaval for many native peoples in Texas.


Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion was open from November 1, 2008 through September 14, 2009 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.


Mummies of the Tarim Basin was open from April 9, 2011 through June 5, 2011. 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 was open from October 21, 2010 through November 20, 2011. 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.


Ceramic Interactions: Steve Keister was open from March 23, 2010 through 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.


Year of Water was open from August 20, 2010 through August 26, 2011. 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 was open from February 5, 2011 through June 5, 2011. 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


Run! Super-Athletes of the Sierra Madre was open from March 31 through September 30, 2012 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.


Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments from 9/11 was open from August 20 through November 6, 2011 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 was open from January 28, 2010 through July 14, 2013 What in the World is an interactive installation created by multi-disciplinary artist Pablo Helguera as part of the Philagrafika contemporary art festival.


Battleground: War Rugs from Afghanistan was open from 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 was open from May 5, 2012 through January 13, 2013 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."


Unearthing a Masterpiece was open from February 10 through May 12, 2013 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.


Black Bodies in Propaganda was open from June 2, 2013 through 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.


Year of Color was open from August 19, 2014 through May 31, 2015. 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 Islamic Near East Gallery was open from 1977 through February 15, 2016. 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. 


Beneath the Surface was open from February 7, 2015 through November 1, 2015. 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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