University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Stories from the Penn Museum

From the Editor

By: Jane Hickman

The Spring 2016 issue includes four articles related to the work of the Penn Museum. We open with “Secrets of Ancient Magic: The Power of Spells, Curses, & Omens,” which is tied to the current exhibition “Magic in the Ancient World”. Professors Bob Ousterhout and Grant Frame taught a curatorial seminar in 2015 that led […]


Renovation & Innovation

From the Director

By: Julian Siggers

This is a time of tremendous excitement and anticipation in the Penn Museum as we prepare to transform our keystone galleries—Ancient Middle East, Asian, and Egyptian—into stunning showcases for our collections and the important stories they tell of our own past. In the meantime, one such showcase is currently on view: The Golden Age of […]


Kourion at the Crossroads: Exploring Ancient Cyprus

In the Galleries

In 1934, Penn archaeologists George McFadden and John Franklin Daniel began excavating at Kourion, Cyprus. More than 80 years later, as part of the Provost’s Year of Discovery, student curatorial interns Diane Panepresso, Ashley Terry, and Andrés de los Rios have created an exhibition incorporating the artifactual and archival materials from these excavations. The exhibition-building […]


Secrets of Ancient Magic

The Power of Spells, Curses, & Omens

By: Kate Murphy & Cynthia Susalla

In ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, practitioners of magic exploited symbolic words, images, and rituals to achieve desired outcomes through supernatural means. Using magical acts, they attempted to control supernatural powers— gods, demons, spirits, or ghosts—to accomplish something beyond the scope of human capabilities. The exhibition Magic in the Ancient World, now at the […]


Sowing the Seeds of Competitive Play

Photograph of Doug Polumbaum and Risa Korris
The Enduring Legacy of Mancala

By: Kristen Pearson

Mancala has been popular in the United States since a commercialized version was intro- duced in the 1940s under the brand name Kalah. This version of the game is simple to learn and is played on a small, plain wooden board with two rows of six pockets and a set of flat marbles to use […]


Traders of the Mountains

Photo of Team
The Early Bronze Age in Iraqi Kurdistan

By: Steve Renette

Within the imaginations of people inhabiting the dense cities that dotted the Mesopotamian plains, the Zagros Mountains to the east occupied an ambiguous role. On the one hand, they were the gateway to mythical lands of unimaginable wealth from where the sun god Utu/Shamash rose every day. On the other hand, it was an impenetrable […]


Finding Their Way Home

Photo of Mr. Fanco
Twenty-five Years of NAGPRA at the Penn Museum

By: Lucy Fowler Williams and Stacey O. Espenlaub and Janet Monge

On November 2, 2015, Mr. Lalo Franco and Mr. Pete Alanis of the Tachi Yokut Tribe of the Santa Rosa Rancheria arrived in Philadelphia to receive ancestral human remains that had been part of the collection of the Penn Museum. This was a profoundly significant event for them as they took possession of the remains […]


Lisbon: Rich in History and Culture

Photo of tile- monkey riding a horse
Fieldtrip

By: Janet Simon

Today’s visitors to the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon see striking evidence of a glorious past. At the height of Portugal’s power during the 15th-century Age of Discovery, her explorers sailed all over the world under Prince Henry the Navigator. Portugal’s strategic position at the western end of the Mediterranean resulted in the sea having […]


Kos: A First Stop in the Refugee Crisis

photo of Refugees
Past/Present

By: Jerolyn E. Morrison Ph.D.

Each day our humanitarian efforts on Kos begin after our work in the museum ends. It starts with an eight-pound bag of lentils. While sharing our archaeological discoveries, we pick through the legumes to remove small rocks, seeds, and chunks of dirt. Overnight they soak in water so they can be cooked quickly, pack- aged, […]


The Evolution of Pigs

Domesticated pig
In the Labs

By: Katherine Moore, Ph.D.

A recent student project in the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) uses animal bones from the Penn Museum’s Near East collection to study the evolution of pigs. Does material from our collection support the theory that pigs evolve to a smaller size as they are domesticated? Animal remains from Hotu and Belt […]