University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Mummies: Unraveling History’s Mysteries

Photo of Jane, Page, and Janet with mummy
From the Editor

By: Jane Hickman and Page Selinsky

To many school children and their families, the Penn Museum is known as the “Mummy Museum.” Although visitors are fascinated with objects from the galleries, the mummies are something they always remember. Several years ago, we sat down with anthropology grad student Paul Mitchell and Egyptologist Dr. Steve Phillips to discuss an issue of Expedition […]


Accessible to All

Julian standing by wheelchair ramp
From the Director

By: Julian Siggers

We want the Penn Museum to be accessible to all visitors. This is a priority of our mission—after all, the Museum’s extraordinary research and collections are meant to be shared. You might have noticed one of our newest means of increasing access to the Museum: our new ramp on the west side of the Kamin […]


Mummies Beyond the Grave

An Introduction to Mummy Studies around the World

By: Janet Monge

Over 20 years ago, I got hooked on mummies. It began when we first x-rayed the many South and North American mummies that are part of the Physical Anthropology Section collections at the Penn Museum. This led to a drive to glean even more information from the mummies. For several years, on Sunday mornings at […]


Frozen Mummies of the Andes

Photo of author with mummies
Human Sacrifices in the Sacred Landscape of the Inca

By: Johan Reinhard

The Incas are renowned for massive carved stone structures, the construction of thousands of miles of roads, and the establishment of one of the greatest empires in the ancient Americas. However, one of their achievements remains especially impressive. In just over sixty years (ca. 1470–1532 CE), they constructed stone structures on nearly 100 mountains ranging […]


Ötzi the Iceman

Otzi
Examining New Evidence from the Famous Copper Age Mummy

By: M. Vidale and L. Bondioli and D.W. Frayer and M. Gallinaro and A. Vanzetti

The Iceman mummy, nicknamed Ötzi, was discovered in 1991 amidst sheets of melting ice on the Tisenjoch pass of the Similaun glacier in the Tyrolean Alps. He was found on the border between Italy and Austria, at an altitude of 3,200 m above sea level. He is a well-preserved male human corpse, dark in color, […]


Preserved in Peat

Photo of part of the body found
Decoding Bog Bodies from Lower Saxony, Germany

By: Sabine Eisenbeiss

Bog bodies—human corpses naturally mummified in the cool, acidic, and low-oxygen environments of peat bogs—have been found in Lower Saxony, Germany, and in other peaty areas of Northern Europe, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. These bog bodies date from ca. 8000 BCE to the recent past and are noted for […]


Ancient Mummies of the Tarim Basin

Photo of mummy
Discovering Early Inhabitants of Eastern Central Asia

By: Victor H. Mair

The mummies of Eastern Central Asia (hereafter ECA) first entered my consciousness in the summer of 1988. I had heard about them in the 1970s, but until I came face to face with them, I did not have a sense of their enormous importance for the study of Eurasian prehistory and history. I had been […]


The Buddhas of Mount Yudono

Photo of mummy
Sacred Self-Mummification in Northern Japan

By: Frank W. Clements and with captions and photography by Shayne Dahl

A skeletal figure draped in brightly colored robes is not what one usually pictures when asked to describe a Buddha, but the inhabitants of the villages surrounding Mt. Yudono in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, would disagree. Several temples in the western half of the north part of Japan’s main island enshrine such emaciated, ostensibly grotesque figures […]


Journeys of the Mummy Scientist

Photo of Ron and Friend
An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Ronald G. Beckett

By: Page Selinsky and Paul Mitchell

Doctor Ronald Beckett is a pioneer in using minimally invasive imaging techniques, particularly endoscopy (examining the inside of the body with a lighted instrument), for the scientific study of mummies. He and his colleague, Jerry Conlogue, were also the hosts of a National Geographic reality television series The Mummy Road Show. Despite the sensationalistic title, […]


The Marvels of Body Worlds

Photo of "The Thinker"
Modern Mummies and the Exhibition of Human Anatomy

By: Page Selinsky

The Body Worlds exhibitions of plastinated human bodies and anatomical specimens by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens are in many ways a distinctly modern phenomenon and yet also closely tied to the past in both the treatment of mummies as showpieces and sources of fascination (see Mitchell article in this issue), and the tradition of […]