University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Region: Asia


Chinese Nomadic Art and the Journey to Collect

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The Legacy of the Mayer Collection

By: Fangyi Cheng and Fangyi Cheng and 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

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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 […]


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 […]