University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Region: Near East


Secrets of Ancient Magic

The Power of Spells, Curses, & Omens

By: Kate Murphy & 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 […]


Sowing the Seeds of Competitive Play

Photograph of Doug Polumbaum and Risa Korris
The Enduring Legacy of Mancala

By: Kristen Pearson

Mancala has been popular in the United States since a commercialized version was intro- duced in the 1940s under the brand name Kalah. This version of the game is simple to learn and is played on a small, plain wooden board with two rows of six pockets and a set of flat marbles to use […]


Traders of the Mountians

Photo of Team
The Early Bronze Age in Iraqi Kurdistan

By: Steve Renette

Within the imaginations of people inhabiting the dense cities that dotted the Mesopotamian plains, the Zagros Mountains to the east occupied an ambiguous role. On the one hand, they were the gateway to mythical lands of unimaginable wealth from where the sun god Utu/Shamash rose every day. On the other hand, it was an impenetrable […]


The Evolution of Pigs

Domesticated pig
In the Labs

By: Katherine Moore, Ph.D.

A recent student project in the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) uses animal bones from the Penn Museum’s Near East collection to study the evolution of pigs. Does material from our collection support the theory that pigs evolve to a smaller size as they are domesticated? Animal remains from Hotu and Belt […]


Gordion and the Penn Museum

By: C. Brian Rose

Like many great archaeological discoveries, the site of Gordion was encountered by accident. Engineers working on the construction of the Berlin-Baghdad railroad noticed a large, flat-topped mound with extensive amounts of pottery on the surface and assumed that it was an ancient settlement. Parts of the site and the surrounding monumental burial mounds, or tumuli, […]


The Legacy of Phrygian Culture

By: Kathryn R. Morgan and C. Brian Rose and Sam Holzman and Patricia Kim

The impact of Midas’ reign on the political configuration of Asia Minor is well known; less obvious is the impact of Phrygian culture on subsequent developments in textile production, music, problem-solving slogans, and even the representations of liberty. What is the relationship between flamenco and the Phrygian mode in music, and why were Phrygian caps […]


Architectural Conservation at Gordion

By: Elisa Del Bono

Following the preservation policy of many Mediterranean countries, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Turkey requires the directors of archaeological projects to focus not only on excavation but also on archaeological conservation and site improvement for visitors. From 2006 to 2014, this work at Gordion was conducted under the auspices of the Architectural Conservation […]


The Myth of Midas’ Golden Touch

By: Anastasia Amrhein and Patricia Kim and Lucas Stephens and Jane Hickman

Gold has been used to create objects of beauty across the ages, conferring a high level of status on those who own it. In some cultures, gold has spiritual and even magical qualities. As a raw material or manufactured object, gold also plays an important role in understanding ancient trade. Gold luxury objects and coins […]


The Role of Science

in Gordion’s Archaeology

By: Gareth Darbyshire

Gordion is an unusually large and complex archaeological site, the product of its over 4,000-year occupation history. Rising 16 meters (50 feet) above the surrounding plain, it measured about 4 km (2.5 miles) across in the time of Midas. Investigating a site of this magnitude is an enormous challenge, and over the last six decades […]


A Day in the Life

The 2015 Field Season

By: AYŞE GÜRSAN-SALZMANN

Any description of life at Gordion must begin with the dig house, the center of archaeological activity now just as it was when it was built in the 1950s. The two-story house sits on a slight rise, looking out over a landscape of tumuli and irrigated fields of wheat, sugar beet, and onions. Like most […]