Region: Egypt

Sacred Animal Cults in Egypt

Excavating the Catacombs of Anubis at Saqqara

By: Salima Ikram and Paul Nicholson

A recent excavation at Saqqara, Egypt, is exposing an ancient bustling economy associated with pilgrims and animal cults. Catacombs dedicated to offerings for the god Anubis have revealed huge numbers of mummified dogs, purchased to obtain the god’s favor. The study of these remains allows Egyptologists to interpret the impact religion had on local culture […]

Dogs and Cats and Birds, Oh My!

The Penn Museum's Egyptian Animal Mummies

By: Christina Griffith

While most visitors to the Museum are drawn to the mummified people from Ancient Egypt, humans are not alone in the afterlife: dozens of animal mummies are also part of the Musem’s Egyptian collection. We have amassed a variety of birds (ibis, falcon, and hawk), a shrew, small crocodiles, cats, bundles of lizards and snakes, […]

Statue of a Cat

Favorite Object

By: Jane Hickman

Cats in Ancient Egypt were kept as pets and as sacred animals dedicated to Bastet, the goddess of fertility and the home. Cats served a useful role in the house, as they were successful in keeping away mice and snakes. Depicted as a cat or cat-headed woman, Bastet was associated with the daughter of the […]

Stone that Flows

Researching Ancient Egyptian Faience and Glass

By: Paul Verhelst

Of all the materials used to craft objects in ancient Egypt, nothing catches the eye quite like Egyptian faience (thnt [tjhenet]: “brilliance”) and glass (jnr n wdh [yener-en-wedjeh]: “stone of the kind that flows”). From humble raw ingredients transformed through heat, ancient craftspeople worked faience and glass into objects desired by all levels of Egyptian […]

Exploring Sunken Cities of Egypt

Book cover
Book News + Reviews

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds By Franck Goddio and Auréliea Masson-Berghoff, eds. (New York, Thames & Hudson, 2016) 272 pages, 272 illustrations, $60.00, ISBN 978-0-500-05185-6. This beautifully illustrated volume brings together years of research and archaeology on one of the most fascinating periods of ancient Egyptian history. Following the conquest of the Persian Empire by […]

Childbirth Magic

photo of object
Deciphering Bed Figurines from Ancient Egypt

By: Charlotte Rose

Ancient Egyptians welcomed childbirth with ritual, using medico-magical spells, amulets, and various other objects to help ensure the survival of mother and child. Objects used in childbirth rituals took many forms. For example, a Middle Kingdom (2055–1650 BCE) magical birth brick discovered by the Penn Museum in South Abydos—used to support the mother during labor—depicts […]

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 […]

Secrets of Ancient Magic

The Power of Spells, Curses, & Omens

By: Kate Murphy and Cynthia Susalla

In ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, practitioners of magic exploited symbolic words, images, and rituals to achieve desired outcomes through supernatural means. Using magical acts, they attempted to control supernatural powers— gods, demons, spirits, or ghosts—to accomplish something beyond the scope of human capabilities. The exhibition Magic in the Ancient World, now at the […]

Stewarding Collections in Times of Change

In the Galleries

The current academic year has seen the launch of an exciting period of renovations and updates for the Penn Museum and its neighbor, the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS). UPHS began the demolition of Penn Tower, located directly to the south of the Museum, in preparation for construction of a new Patient Pavilion designed […]

A Season in Hell (with Apologies to Arthur Rimbaud)

The Annihilation of the Damned in Ancient Egypt

By: Joshua Aaron Roberson

“I will tear the veils from every mystery: mysteries of religion or of nature, death, birth, the future, the past, cosmogony, and nothingness.” – Arthur Rimbaud, Une Saison en Enfer, I, III (1873). Few mysteries fascinate humankind so deeply as that veil to which Rimbaud alludes: the gossamer barrier that separates “here” from “hereafter.” All […]