Open today 10 am – 5 pm

Ancient Egypt: From Discovery to Display

Witness the journey artifacts take on their way to museum display—from excavation to conservation, to storage and research.

Upper Level

Included with Museum Admission

The Ancient Egypt exhibition.

Explore themes like kingship, deities, daily life, and the afterlife. See Egyptian artifacts in visible storage, and learn more about ancient Egypt and Penn’s excavations there.

The Penn Museum has been involved in archaeological research in Egypt for more than a century. Most of the material in the collection was excavated by Penn archaeologists, and come from excavation sites such as tombs, temples, and towns throughout Egypt.

The exhibition highlights not only the history of how these artifacts came to the Museum, but also how the objects are stored, used for research, and the meticulous skill and expertise involved in conserving and preparing them for display.

Although the Penn Museum houses one of the largest collections of Egyptian material in the U.S., when archaeologists excavate today, everything found must stay in Egypt.

Gallery contains human remains.

Please Note: This gallery contains human remains.

What's On View
False door. On the central panel, the deceased is shown seated before a table of offerings. The text is a standard funerary inscription invoking the funerary gods Osiris and Anubis. Block statue of the overseer of priests, Sitepehu. Standing graywacke statue of Amun, preserved from the knees up. Round topped wooden stela belonging to the singer of Amun, Tasheryt. She stands on the right side of the stela wearing a long, sheer dress and has her hands raised in adoration to Re-Horakhty who is seated on the left. Two-sided faience plaque depicting Bes surrounded by scampering monkeys and holding a plumed baby Bes on his left arm.

A “false door” is an architectural element in an Egyptian tomb that served as a magical doorway for the ka (or life force) of the deceased. The Egyptians believed that the ka could enter and exit the false door to receive the offerings left in front of it by visitors to the tomb. This false door came from the tomb chapel of Irty-Ptah, a priest of Ptah and a “Scribe of Divine Offering” in the Temple of Ptah at Memphis. E14318

Sitepehu, the individual represented by this block statue, lived during the reign of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut and served as an overseer of priests. The hieroglyphic inscriptions on the front and side of the statue consist of funerary prayers that invoke the gods Osiris and Inheret. These inscriptions also convey information about Sitepehu’s identity, religious beliefs, and social standing. E9217

This statue represents the god Amun wearing a flat crown (missing its tall plumes), a broad collar, and a short kilt fastened with a tyet amulet. Each hand holds an ankh symbol, representing “life.” This statue’s facial features suggest it may be a representation of the pharaoh Tutankhamun in the form of the god Amun––an homage to young pharaoh’s influential role in restoring Amun's worship after the reign of the “heretic” king Akhenaten. E14350

During the Third Intermediate Period (1075-656 BCE), brightly painted wooden stelae were popular. This stela honors Tasheryt, a woman who held the important position of singer in the temple of the god Amun. Wearing a flowing, sheer gown, she raises her hands in adoration as she faces the falcon-headed god Re-Horakhty. The solar disk atop his head highlights his role as a sun god. Before him is a table piled with offerings. Six vertical columns of text above identify the god and the woman. E2043

With hundreds of gods, the Egyptians appealed to certain deities for help with deeply personal issues such as healing, fertility, and love. Evidence of this widespread devotion can be found in objects like this faience plaque representing Bes, a popular deity accompanied by lively monkeys. Originally, metal rings were attached to the holes at the top of the plaque. When shaken, the object produced a rattling sound believed to ward off malevolent forces that could bring harm to the household. E14358

View all objects on display in this gallery.

Beaded Necklaces:
Complex Restringing

To make it stable enough for display, an Egyptian broad collar (31-27-303) came into Conservation to be restrung. Although the beads were in excellent condition, they were on modern cotton thread which was starting to degrade. The collar has six alternating rows of blue and black faience beads and a final row of teardrop beads with falcon-headed terminals. To keep track of the strings, the ends were color coded using markers and each strand used a different dental needle.

Sketch of an archaeologist on a camel.

Penn Museum Voices

May 14, 2024

From Egypt, With Love

David O’Connor’s arrival to the Penn Museum in 1964 ushered in a new era of Egyptology in Philadelphia and beyond. But the famed archaeologist was also a dad—connecting with his young daughter across continents with these whimsical doodles.

People using a VR app on their phone.

Penn Today, May 22, 2023

Article by Louisa Shepard

Virtual reality in an ancient world

As we prepare to launch the construction phase of the renovation of our Ancient Egypt and Nubia Galleries, University of Pennsylvania students created films using 360-degree cameras to document the process. The films focus on conservators, curators, and senior archivist, telling their stories of engaging with the collection while working in their spaces. Photo by Eric Sucar.

We’re preparing for a palace

The objects in this special exhibition will eventually be part of the reimagined Ancient Egypt and Nubia Galleries as part of the Museum's Building Transformation project. Learn more about supporting our mission to be a center for inquiry and the ongoing exploration of humanity.

Learn More