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Region: Asia


The Tale of the Tokugawa Artifacts

Japanese Funerary Lanterns at the Penn Museum

By: Yoko Nishimura

A bronze dedicatory lantern that previously stood at the back of the quiet inner courtyard of the Penn Museum waited many years for its significance to be rediscovered. It is one of the Tokugawa lanterns that long illuminated the shogunate family’s grand mausoleums during the Edo period (1603–1868 CE) in the Zōjōji temple in Tokyo, […]


An Abandoned City in Laos

Research Notes

By: Elizabeth G. Hamilton and Joyce C. White

Laos is one of the least archaeologically explored countries in the world, largely because geopolitics of Southeast Asia through much of the 20th century made the country too dangerous for research. The Middle Mekong Archaeological Project (MMAP), directed by Joyce White, Penn Museum Consulting Scholar and head of the Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology, has […]


Marking the Spirit Road

Winged lion
Funerary Stone Sculpture in China

By: Adam Smith and Qin Zhongpei

The two winged lions that confront each other across the span of the Rotunda are the oldest and most massive Chinese sculptures at the Penn Museum. Carved around 200 CE, as the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 CE) was disintegrating, they predate all the stone monuments surrounding them in the gallery, and represent the first flourishing […]


From the CAAM Labs to the Field, and Back Again

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In the Labs

For this issue of “In the Labs,” two undergraduate students enrolled in CAAM’s Minor in Archaeological Science write on the research they conducted in the field last summer. Recording of a Burial Mound, Gordion (Turkey) By Braden Cordivari C18 My senior research project in the Department of Classical Studies concerns summer fieldwork at the site […]


Early Photographs of China

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In the Archives

By: Alessandro Pezzati

Photography has been central to archaeological and ethnographic documentation since its invention in 1839. Almost all Penn Museum expeditions took cameras into the field. Since its founding in 1887, the Museum has also acquired many photographic collections, for both research and public education. Many of these thousands of images are by pioneers of photography or […]


Chinese Nomadic Art and the Journey to Collect

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The Legacy of the Mayer Collection

By: 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 […]


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

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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 […]