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Eastern Mediterranean Gallery

Crossroads of Cultures

Included with General Admission
Upper Level
The new Eastern Mediterranean Gallery.
Photo by Eric Sucar

Uncover a cosmopolitan hub of diverse cultures whose innovations shaped today's world.

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.

Today, the region includes Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. The new 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.

Gallery at-a-glance

  • Explore this reimagined, multi-sensory 2,000 sq. ft. gallery
  • See 400 artifacts from the Penn Museum’s own excavations throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, ranging from the Middle Bronze Age to the 1800s.
  • Touch replica artifacts to feel the presence of history, and smell scents that conjure up the ancient past.
  • Peer inside a cargo hold modeled after a wrecked 14th-century BCE Mediterranean ship, filled with pottery vessels and objects of bronze, copper, faience, glass, and ivory—evidence of international trade.

Gallery Themes

Blue faience amulet of Hathor wearing a feathered headdress.

Canaanites at an Egyptian mine used an early alphabet to write dedications to the goddess Hathor—the same goddess shown on this amulet from Beth Shean. Hathor Amulet, Faience, 1200–1075 BCE, Beth Shean, Israel, 29-104-154

Creativity and Change

Life in the Eastern Mediterranean began to change as people combined their knowledge and traditions. Merchants and empires spread a new form of writing, and communities developed new religious beliefs and practices.

A sarcophagus lid showing a female face with large ears, hands crossed over each other.

Egyptian-inspired coffin lids were sculpted by hand or using special molds. Sarcophagus Fragment, Terracotta, 1200–1000 BCE, Beth Shean, Israel, 29-103-757

Power and Conflict

The Eastern Mediterranean lies on the outskirts of empires, and has consequently been drawn into them. Local leaders sometimes served faraway kings; at other times, they ruled autonomously. As the region changed hands, the people who lived there both adapted to and resisted new customs and rules of law.

Round bodied flask with two handles and painted on design of interlaced shaded triangles resembling wickerwork.

Potters got creative when making these hybrid vessels. This ceramic flask from Cyprus merges the round-bottomed shape of a traditional flask with a pyxis (container) and lid. Flask, Ceramic, Pigment, 1050–850 BCE, Cyprus, 49-12-664

Coexistence and Connection

People from around 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 began to express their identities in new, creative ways.

Gallery Events


  • Lauren Ristvet, Ph.D.
    Robert H. Dyson, Jr. Associate Curator in the Penn Museum’s Near East Section
  • Joanna S. Smith, Ph.D.
    Consulting Scholar in the Museum’s Mediterranean Section
  • Virginia Herrmann, Ph.D.
    Consulting Scholar in the Museum’s Near Eastern Section
  • Eric Hubbard, Ph.D. Candidate
    Ph.D. Candidate in Penn’s Anthropology Department

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.