University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Region: North America

Extraordinary Monuments from North America

Photo of mound
Exhibition Spotlight

Moundbuilders: Ancient Architects of North America opened on June 24, 2017 at the Penn Museum. This exhibition tells the story of the 5,000-year-old practice of mound construction in Native North America. Using photographs, archival records, and artifacts excavated at mound sites throughout the eastern United States, Moundbuilders demonstrates that you do not need a passport […]

The Mystery of Queen of La Florida-Namaan

Drawing of jewels

By: Joanne Baron

During the 2016 field season at La Florida, a fascinating discovery was made. A large stela with the carved image of a royal woman was revealed just inches below the surface. Who was this mystery queen and what can this monument tell us about La Florida’s political dynasty? The Classic Maya site of La Florida […]

Bearing Witness

Four Days in West Kingston

By: Deborah A. Thomas

The new Penn Museum exhibition Bearing Witness had its genesis in a disturbing event that took place in Jamaica in 2010. Over the course of four days, at least 75 residents of a community were killed in a confrontation with local authorities. Professor Deborah A. Thomas and her colleagues Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn and Dr. Deanne […]

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 […]

The Curious Case of Mrs. Ellenbogen

Illustration of Leidy
Saponification and Deceit in 19th-Century Philadelphia

By: Anna N. Dhody

Old and probably ugly, with a nut-cracker profile. That is how Joseph McFarland, M.D., referred to the Soap Lady, one of the Mütter Museum’s most famous and enduring specimens. McFarland, the Curator of the museum from 1937 to 1945, also called her “one of the most revolting objects that can be imagined.” And, while it […]

Finding Their Way Home

Photo of Mr. Fanco
Twenty-five Years of NAGPRA at the Penn Museum

By: Lucy Fowler Williams and Stacey O. Espenlaub and Janet Monge

On November 2, 2015, Mr. Lalo Franco and Mr. Pete Alanis of the Tachi Yokut Tribe of the Santa Rosa Rancheria arrived in Philadelphia to receive ancestral human remains that had been part of the collection of the Penn Museum. This was a profoundly significant event for them as they took possession of the remains […]

Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley

The Mounds of Native North America

By: Megan C. Kassabaum

Earthen mounds have been constructed in the eastern United States for well over 5,000 years. From early beginnings in the Lower Mississippi Valley through the ongoing mound building ceremonies of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, mounds have always played important roles in the ritual, social, and political lives of Native American groups. They vary […]

Planting New Seeds: The Lenape Garden at Penn

By: Caroline Kee

Tucked behind Penn’s Greenfield Intercultural Center (GIC) at 37th and Chestnut is a small, narrow lot. For many years, it was just that—a backyard space that GIC students and staff used occasionally for barbecues and receptions. Aside from a couple of new flowerpots, it was mostly unkempt; weeds speckled the yellowed grass and tangled grape […]

The People & Products of Colonization

Africa at the Chicago and Paris Expositions

By: Dwaune Latimer

Arican exhibits at world’s fairs— including both native peoples and the objects of their daily life— provided American and European visitors to fairs with an opportunity to see cultures vastly different from their own. Some ethnographic exhibits supported the idea of the “other,” providing evidence of diverse “exotic” groups that had their own distinct cultures. […]

From Saqqara to St. Louis to Philadelphia

The Chapel of Kaipure

By: David P. Silverman

Having worked at the 1964 New York World’s Fair when I was a teenager, I thought that I knew a great deal about how things operated in such venues. Much later, I learned through my research at the Penn Museum, however, that, in addition to visiting exhibitions, tasting exotic foods, and buying souvenirs, one could […]