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Region: Asia

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

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

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

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

photo of object

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

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. […]