University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Region: Near East

City of the Moon

photo of object
New Excavations at Ur

By: William B. Hafford

The ancient city of Ur was dedicated to the Sumerian moon god—today it resembles a lunar landscape. From 1922 to 1934 the Penn Museum and the British Museum jointly excavated portions of the site, but the massive mound containing 5,000 years of history has lain largely untouched for the last 80 years. In 2015, a […]

Ancient Lineages

photo of village
Reconstructing the Genetic History of Svaneti, Northwest Georgia

By: Aram Yardumian and Theodore G. Schurr and Ramaz Shengelia and Davit Chitanava and Shorena Laliashvili and Lia Bitadze and Irma Laliashvili

At the dawn of the common era, the Greek historian and geographer Strabo composed brief descriptions of the numerous tribes living and trading at Eastern Black Sea ports for his encyclopedic work Geographica. Among them, he wrote, “Are the Soanes, who are…superior…in power…and hold possession of the heights of the caucasus above Dioscurias. The mountainous […]

Report from the Field – In the Mountains, between Empires

photo of people on hill
Notes From the Lerik in Antiquity Archaeological Project

By: Susannah Fishman and Jeyhun Eminli and Lara Fabian and Emil Iskenderov

The first season of the collaborative Azerbaijani-American Lerik in Antiquity Archaeological Project (LAAP), co-directed by Ph.D. student Lara Fabian (Penn AAMW), recent graduate Dr. Susannah Fishman (Penn Anthropology), and Dr. Jeyhun Eminli (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences), was funded by the Kolb Foundation, and supported by the Institute of Archaeology […]

Aegean Dyes

photo of painting
Unearthing the Colors of Ancient Minoan Textiles

By: Marie Nicole Pareja and Philip P. Betancourt and Vili Apostolakou and Thomas M. Brogan and Andrew J. Koh

Bronze Age Clothing in Minoan Crete was multicolored and made from intricately woven textiles. Until now, our only evidence related to the colors in the textiles came from the study of costume in wall paintings. Fortunately, recent research has revealed that several different dyes were produced in Minoan Crete. Clothing is depicted in frescoes and […]

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 Mountains

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 […]