University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Region: Asia


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 […]


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 […]


Yupi Dazi

Fish-Skin Tartars of the Amur River Delta

By: William Wierzbowski

The Amur, or “great river,” is one of the longest in the world with its source deep in the interior of Asia. It empties into the Pacific Ocean in southeastern Siberia at the Sea of Okhotsk, which is north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido (home of the Ainu) and Sakhalin Island. A major ethnological […]


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. […]


From Homework to Fieldwork: Summer 2014 Student Projects

Around the World

The Penn Museum encourages and supports student research projects. In 2014, we funded 35 students (23 graduate students, 12 undergraduate students) in their fieldwork in 15 different countries. Five of these students share their summer projects. Molyvoti, Thrace Archaeological Project By Samuel Holzman, Graduate Student in Art And Archaeology of The Mediterranean World (AAMW) During […]


Taming the Beast

The Digital Gordion Mapping Project

By: Gareth Darbyshire and Gabriel H. Pizzorno

Gordion, in central Turkey, is the largest and longest-running of the Penn Museum’s many excavation projects. An ancient site of great historical significance, Gordion was occupied for 5,000 years from the Early Bronze Age (ca. 3000 BCE) through to modern times. Its high point was in the Iron Age (the early first millennium BCE) when […]


Art During Wartime

Recruitment of Black Soldiers from the U.S. Civil War through African Independence Movements

By: Tukufu Zuberi

Military posters are designed to be highly visible in public spaces. They become iconic images for those who remember wars as well as objects for generations of collectors and history enthusiasts. Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster, a current exhibition at the Penn Museum, examines how images—primarily of African and African-American […]


The Purchase, Theft, and Recovery of the Crystal Ball

By: Alessandro Pezzati

The Chinese crystal sphere, on display in the Harrison Rotunda, has been an iconic object in the Museum since 1927, when it was purchased by Eldridge R. Johnson in memory of Museum Director George Byron Gordon. The 55 pounds of transparent quartz crystal is supposedly from the collections of the infamous Qing dynasty Empress Cixi […]


George Byron Gordon and the Chinese Collection

By: Alessandro Pezzati

George Byron Gordon (1870–1927) was born of Scottish-English ancestry on Prince Edward Island, Canada. After obtaining his Ph.D. at Harvard, he joined the Museum staff in 1903 as Stewart Culin’s replacement. He soon impressed University administrators with his work ethic and vision; in 1910 he was made Director. Gordon oversaw the largest period of growth […]