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People across the Mediterranean met and traded goods in cities from Carthage to Palmyra. As they worked and lived together, their traditions and ideas mixed, and they expressed their identities in new, creative ways.

Above: Figurine, Beth Shean, 29-103-935

For more than 4,000 years, the Eastern Mediterranean has been a crossroads of cultural exchange between diverse peoples. Merchants, migrants, and soldiers met there to raise monuments to kings and gods, sail ships across the vast Mediterranean Sea, and share ideas in unexpected ways. This gallery highlights the great creativity of the region’s distinctive material culture, shaped by both conflict and collaboration. Concepts that emerged in the Eastern Mediterranean gave rise to major religions around the world and the alphabet we use today.

What's On View
Wine drinking vessels from a tomb. Ivory inlay of Horus Seated on Lotus. In high relief, young man (bust) with lamb on a tray, Palmyrene inscription to the right and left of his head.

Drinking wine and feasting were an important part of funerals across the Eastern Mediterranean world. This elaborate bronze set for mixing and drinking wine would have been used for the last time when this woman was laid to rest. The vessels were found nested together in her tomb. 86-18-1590, 86-18-1591, 86-18-1592, 86-18-1593

Conquests by Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia united a large region and brought diverse cultures into close contact. Assyrian soldiers may have carried Phoenician thrones decorated with these ivory panels to their capital city as trophies. The falcon-headed sphinx and the image of Horus as a child are symbols of power and life that the Phoenicians adopted rom Egypt. 65-3-4

Wealthy Palmyrenes hired sculptors to preserve their names and images after death. Wearing a Parthian (Iranian) tunic from further east, this unnamed youth carries lamb on a tray. There is Palmyrene inscription to the right and left of his head. B8903

View all objects on display in this gallery.

Evolution of the Alphabet

The letters you are reading right now descend form the world’s first alphabet. Watch the evolution of the letter A.

Gallery At A Glance

  • Where is the Eastern Mediterranean?

    One of the great crossroads of history, this region today includes Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus.

    Map of the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Peer inside the cargo hold of an ancient Mediterranean ship.

    Modeled after a wrecked 14th-century BCE ship and filled with pottery vessels and objects of bronze, copper, faience, glass, and ivory highlights evidence of international trade.

    Inside the cargo hold of a ship.
  • A multi-sensory experience

    In addition to seeing 400 artifacts from the Penn Museum’s own excavations, you can touch replica artifacts to feel the presence of history and smell scents that conjure up the ancient past.

    A person interacting with an exhibit.

Take a Guided Tour

No advance registration is required and many tours are included with Museum admission. Tours begin in the Main Entrance.

Explore Tours

Acknowledging Our Underwriters

The Eastern Mediterranean Gallery is made possible by the lead support of The Giorgi Family Foundation, and by additional generous support from the Frederick J. Manning, W69, family; J. Barton Riley, W70, and Gretchen P. Riley, CGS70; the David Berg Foundation; the McLean Contributionship; and Elizabeth R. McLean.

The Eastern Mediterranean Gallery has also been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

Figurine of a solider riding a horse.

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