University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Stories from China, Greece, the Kalahari, and Egypt

From the Editor

By: Jane Hickman and Jane Hickman

The Winter 2016 issue of Expedition opens with an article by Fangyi Cheng on the legacy of the Museum’s Mayer Collection. Isabel and William Mayer collected over 400 bronze objects from China’s northern frontier. Using archival documents and photographs as well as interviews with Mayer family descendants, Cheng provides a vivid account of Americans in […]


The Digital Penn Museum

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From the Director

By: Julian Siggers

The Penn Museum has extraordinary collections and resources. Now, they are more easily available than ever before: we have launched The Digital Penn Museum, a centralized online portal for our vast range of digital content (found at www.penn.museum/collections/). Visitors can explore the collections online through collections highlights that bring together resources for iconic objects like […]


Transformation Ahead

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The New Penn Museum

Through the Penn Museum Building Transformation Campaign, the Penn Museum will completely renovate the historic Coxe and Harrison Wings, letting in the light, and adding full visitor accessibility and amenities, and (long-awaited) air-conditioning to wings built a century or more ago. We will also reinstall every signature gallery except the Classical World Galleries (opened from […]


Building Transformation

rendering of outdoor space
The New Penn Museum

The Penn Museum’s Building Renovations and New Galleries Project—comprising the complete renovation of the historic Harrison and Coxe (Egyptian) Wings, opened in 1915 and 1926, respectively, and the reinstallation of the iconic galleries housing collections from the ancient Near East, Egypt, and Asia—will transform our landmark building into a dynamic destination, with over 35,000 square […]


Chinese Nomadic Art and the Journey to Collect

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The Legacy of the Mayer Collection

By: Fangyi Cheng and Fangyi Cheng and Fangyi Cheng

For foreigners in China, the 1920s and ’30s were the golden age for collecting artifacts. Professional curators and dealers sent by foundations or governments stayed in Beijing, Tianjin, and other big cities to search for Chinese antiquities or to do fieldwork. Others were amateur collectors of more modest personal means. William Mayer (1892–1975) and his […]


A Closer Look at the Mayer Collection

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Decoding Animal Bronzes: Onagers and Oxen Bronze Plaque with Onager or Wild Ass Northern China, 8th–5th centuries BCE, H. 4.95 cm Mayer Collection, PM object 41-37-22 On this openwork garment plaque, the forequarters of two pairs of onagers are enclosed in a rectangular frame, with heads turned back, ears perforated, and slight depressions to mark […]


Aegean Dyes

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Unearthing the Colors of Ancient Minoan Textiles

By: Marie Nicole Pareja and Philip P. Betancourt and Vili Apostolakou and Thomas M. Brogan and Andrew J. Koh

Bronze Age Clothing in Minoan Crete was multicolored and made from intricately woven textiles. Until now, our only evidence related to the colors in the textiles came from the study of costume in wall paintings. Fortunately, recent research has revealed that several different dyes were produced in Minoan Crete. Clothing is depicted in frescoes and […]


Kalahari Adventures

Bob Dyson's Travels in Africa

By: Ilisa Barbash

BEFORE DR. ROBERT H. DYSON, JR. became Williams Director of the Penn Museum in 1981, he established himself as an archaeologist working in the Near East. This story takes us back to 1951, when Dyson was a graduate student in anthropology at Harvard University. He traveled to the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa with the […]


Childbirth Magic

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Deciphering Bed Figurines from Ancient Egypt

By: Charlotte Rose

Ancient Egyptians welcomed childbirth with ritual, using medico-magical spells, amulets, and various other objects to help ensure the survival of mother and child. Objects used in childbirth rituals took many forms. For example, a Middle Kingdom (2055–1650 BCE) magical birth brick discovered by the Penn Museum in South Abydos—used to support the mother during labor—depicts […]


Highschoolers Take Over the CAAM Labs

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In the Labs

By: Marie-Claude Boileau and Katherine M. Moore

For two weeks last summer, the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) and the Museum’s Learning Programs Department offered an intensive learning experience for high school students called the Summer Institute in Archaeological Science (SIAS). Co-led by instructors Katherine Moore and Marie-Claude Boileau, SIAS explored the essential heritage of human technology through archaeology. […]