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Author: William B. Hafford

Glittering Gold

What in the World

By: William B. Hafford

Gold. Through the ages, it has adorned kings and queens and made princes of the common, inspiring greatness and greed alike. From the mask of Tutankhamun to the top medals awarded at the modern Olympic games, gold embodies value and power, both abstract and physical. Jewelry is a typical use for precious metals. The piece […]


Hanging in the Balance: Precision Weighing in Antiquity

Research Notes

By: William B. Hafford

Have you ever asked yourself, “Just how accu­rate was ancient weighing?” Probably not, but that is what I ask myself almost every day as I struggle to understand Mesopotamian weights from the Bronze Age (3000–1200 BC). I am not the first one to have asked the question. In fact, many scholars have contributed significantly to […]


Hanging in the Balance: Precision Weighing in Antiquity

Research Notes

By: William B. Hafford

Have you ever asked yourself, “Just how accurate was ancient weighing? Probably not, but that is what I ask myself almost every day as I struggle to understand Mesopotamian weights from the Bronze Age (3000–1200 BC). I am not the first one to have asked the question. In fact, many scholars have contributed significantly to […]


City of the Moon

photo of object
New Excavations at Ur

By: William B. Hafford

The ancient city of Ur was dedicated to the Sumerian moon god—today it resembles a lunar landscape. From 1922 to 1934 the Penn Museum and the British Museum jointly excavated portions of the site, but the massive mound containing 5,000 years of history has lain largely untouched for the last 80 years. In 2015, a […]


The Thrill of Discovery

Photo of egg
Penn Museum Excavations in Iraq and Iran

By: Richard L. Zettler and William B. Hafford

England and France have done a noble work of exploration in Assyria and Babylonia. It is time for America to do her part. Let us send out an American expedition. John P. Peters, American Oriental Society meeting, New Haven, 1883. Large Scale Excavations In Mesopotamia (Iraq), the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, began […]


Mesopotamian City Life

photo of board game
Four Thousand Years Ago

By: William B. Hafford

Modern cities have neighborhoods, shops, factories, religious centers, and cemeteries. They have transportation networks along streets and alleyways, and drainage and sewage systems to carry away waste. Cities also have large and ornate public buildings, typically for city administration and religious observance. All of these elements were paralleled in ancient Mesopotamian cities such as Ur […]


A Spectacular Discovery

photo of news
Burials Simple and Splendid

By: William B. Hafford

Of more than 2,000 total graves, only 16 had the structure, wealth, and evidence of human sacfrice that convinced the director of the excavations, C. Leonard Woolley, that they were royal. These 16 overshadowed all the others, however, solidifying the name “Royal Cemetery” in the minds of scholars and the general public. Newspaper articles hailed […]