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Egypt Mummies Gallery

Included with General Admission
Upper Level
egyptian mummy mask

Gallery at-a-glance

  • Come face to face with pharaohs and high-ranking officials of ancient Egypt whose magnificent sculptures stand throughout the gallery.
  • Learn about burial practices and mummification, from early mummies preserved in hot desert sand to later sophisticated funerary techniques.
  • See highlights of the Museum’s Egyptian mummy collection—including several animal mummies.
  • For even more Egyptian artifacts, visit Ancient Egypt: From Discovery to Display, also on the Museum’s Upper Level. And to put Egypt in context within Africa, visit the new Africa Galleries on the Main Level.

Overview

The Egypt (Mummies) Gallery provides a glimpse into how ancient Egyptians buried and honored their dead, especially pharaohs, kings, and other high-ranking officials. The soaring main gallery is lined with statues depicting many of ancient Egypt’s famous rulers, like the powerful Ramses II. (The great Sphinx of Ramses II sits inside the Museum’s Main Entrance, in the Sphinx Gallery.) Other statues and sculptures depict gods and goddesses including Osiris, god of the afterlife; Sekhmet, goddess of war and pestilence; and Neith, goddess of war and a protector of the deceased’s internal organs. Large sarcophagi (stone coffins) still bear carved inscriptions of spells to protect the dead in the afterlife.

A special section on mummification looks at thousands of years of burial practices, starting around 3100 BCE. Mummies, their coffins, and tomb goods give a vivid picture of the ancient Egyptian afterlife and the science of funerary rituals. A mummified cat, crocodile, ibis, and falcon also highlight Egyptians’ attitudes toward pets and animals in the afterlife.

Penn archaeologists have been excavating in Egypt for more than a century. The early excavations built the Museum’s collection of Egyptian and Nubian material—one of the largest in the United States—through a system of dividing finds with Egypt’s Antiquities Service. The vast majority of objects in the collection were excavated, spanning ancient Egypt’s history from around 4000 BCE through the 7th century CE.

More To Come

The Penn Museum is designing new Ancient Egypt and Nubia Galleries, which will draw on our exceptional collection to illuminate daily life, kingship, and the afterlife. (These galleries are targeted to open in 2023, pending funding.) In the meantime, please visit Ancient Egypt: From Discovery to Display, a special exhibition about how Egyptian objects came to the Museum and how they are being prepared for display in the new galleries.

Highlights

Seated Ramses II Statue

Seated Ramses II Statue

The seated pharaoh Ramses II (1290–1224 BCE) oversees the gallery. From the temple of Harsaphes, this statue probably originally depicted a king 300 years before Ramses II and was then re-carved to resemble him—this would explain the statue’s small head. Ramses reigned for more than 60 years and often appropriated statues of earlier pharaohs for his own temples. The worn area near the feet of the statue is where people would have left offerings for the gods outside the temple, since only priests were permitted inside.
sarcophagus lid

Sarcophagus Lid

This limestone sarcophagus lid was made for a man named Pedibast between 381 and 30 BCE. The front of the lid shows Pedibast as a mummy surrounded by protective gods and goddesses, with spells from the Book of the Dead (in hieroglyphs) to ensure his safe passage into the afterlife. The underside of the coffin lid shows Nut, the goddess of rebirth in the afterlife, with her arms outstretched.
coffin lid mummy mask

Coffin Lid Mummy Mask

Many coffins in ancient Egypt imitated the form of the mummy inside. This is the head of the coffin lid of a man named Padineferhotep, who died in the 3rd century BCE. It is made from “cartonnage,” layers of linen or papyrus covered in plaster—a method that became common in when ordinary people began being mummified because it was cheaper than using wood. This mask is covered with a thin sheet of gold, reflecting the belief that through the mummification ritual, the deceased was transformed into a being shining with light, like the sun.

shot of the egypt gallery looking up