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Region: Africa


Making the Africa Galleries

A Conversation with Tukufu Zuberi

By: Jane Hickman and Alyssa Connell Haslam

TUKUFU ZUBERI, PH.D., is the Curator of the Africa Galleries. He is the Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations, and Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Zuberi sat down with Expedition’s Editor Jane Hickman and Associate Publisher Alyssa Connell Haslam to discuss the making of the new Africa Galleries. […]


A Selection of Objects from Our Africa Galleries

By: Jane Hickman and Lauren Cooper and Dwaune Latimer and Alioune Diack and Jessica Bicknell

THE AFRICA COLLECTION at the Penn Museum includes objects that were purchased by or gifted to the Museum or collected on ethnographic expeditions, primarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As was common practice at the time, most pieces were acquired by wealthy travelers or European art and antiquities dealers and later sold […]


The Asante Gold Weights

Practical, Unique, Artistic Tools of the Trade

By: Christina Griffith

Within the glass cases in the Africa Galleries, they appear as miniaturized trophies, toys, or jewelry, but these beautifully crafted sculptures and icons of myth and reality were vital tools in the bustling trade hub of Africa’s Gold Coast. BETWEEN THE 9TH AND 16TH CENTURIES, desert-traversing trade routes connecting Egypt, Ethiopia, Arabia, and Europe to […]


A Famous Queen Mother from Benin

Favorite Object

By: Heather J. Sharkey

THE QUEEN MOTHER, or “Iyoba,” was a powerful figure in the Edo kingdom of Benin, which ruled parts of the West African coast for seven centuries. Starting in the 16th century, the kings or “obas” of this realm appointed craftsmen to make figurative sculptures and reliefs from cast bronze and carved ivory. Installed in palace […]


Gallery Sneak Peak

Africa Galleries They are often called “gold weights,” but they are actually made of brass, cast using the lost wax process. These detailed, animated figures were used as standards to weigh gold dust. Some depict animals such as porcupines, fish, and snakes, or more mundane items like coiled rope and knives. Others are geometric symbols. […]


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 […]