University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Region: Africa


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 […]


Banana Recipes from West Africa,1937

photo of bananas
From the Archives

By: Alessandro Pezzati

Henry Usher Hall (1876–1944), Curator of the General Ethnology Section from 1915 to 1935, undertook two expeditions for the Penn Museum in dramatically distinct areas of the world: he was in Siberia in 1914–1915, at the beginning of his career, and in Sierra Leone, West Africa, in 1936–1937, at the end of it. Due to […]


Tangled Afterlives

How an Egyptian Papyrus Became the Mormon Book of Abraham

By: Paul Mitchell

After 2,000 years of repose, 11 mummified human corpses and a few scrolls of papyrus entombed at Thebes became entangled in the interwoven threads of an Egyptian autocrat’s ambitions, the American public’s fascination with displays of the odd and exotic, and the formulation of the United States’ most prominent homegrown religion. Life after death has […]


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 […]


Museum News – Winter 2015

Museum Objects Travel the World The Penn Museum has an active loans program, sending objects from the collection to museums and institutions around the world. Currently, the Museum is contributing objects to 32 different exhibitions. Two such exhibitions are Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs, which will be on display at the […]


The People & Products of Colonization

Africa at the Chicago and Paris Expositions

By: Dwaune Latimer

Arican exhibits at world’s fairs— including both native peoples and the objects of their daily life— provided American and European visitors to fairs with an opportunity to see cultures vastly different from their own. Some ethnographic exhibits supported the idea of the “other,” providing evidence of diverse “exotic” groups that had their own distinct cultures. […]


Around the World

The Penn Museum’s curators, staff, and consulting scholars conduct research around the world. Read on for a small sampling of their work from this past year. Southwest Utah Robert L. Schuyler, Ph.D., Associate Curator-in-Charge, Historical Archaeology Section The Silver Reef Project—excavation of a 19th-century mining ghost town— has been active over the last 30 years. […]


The Children of Maasailand

A Photographer’s Perspective

By: Jennifer Chiappardi

On a recent trip to Kenya, Dr. Kathleen Ryan of the Penn Museum, along with Paul Mitchell, Louise Hansen, and Erika Hoff, excavated pastoral Neolithic sites in the Laikipia Plateau to identify when the enzyme for milk digestion may have developed in the span of human evolution. The expedition included frequent interactions with the Maasai, […]


In the Galleries – Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster

Propaganda has long been used to mobilize people in times of war. Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster presents 33 posters, most targeting African and African-American civilians. These carefully designed works of art were aimed at mobilizing people of color in war efforts, even as they faced oppression and injustice in […]


Around the World

Around the World Every year, the Penn Museum’s curators and staff conduct research around the world. Read on for a small sampling of this work from the past year. New York & New Mexico Lucy Fowler Williams, Associate Curator and Sabloff Keeper in The American Section In support of the upcoming exhibition Native American Voices: […]