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Volume 58 : Articles

Ancient Mummies of the Tarim Basin

Photo of mummy
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 […]

Journeys of the Mummy Scientist

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An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Ronald G. Beckett

By: Page Selinsky and Paul Mitchell

Doctor Ronald Beckett is a pioneer in using minimally invasive imaging techniques, particularly endoscopy (examining the inside of the body with a lighted instrument), for the scientific study of mummies. He and his colleague, Jerry Conlogue, were also the hosts of a National Geographic reality television series The Mummy Road Show. Despite the sensationalistic title, […]

The Marvels of Body Worlds

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Modern Mummies and the Exhibition of Human Anatomy

By: Page Selinsky

The Body Worlds exhibitions of plastinated human bodies and anatomical specimens by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens are in many ways a distinctly modern phenomenon and yet also closely tied to the past in both the treatment of mummies as showpieces and sources of fascination (see Mitchell article in this issue), and the tradition of […]

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 […]

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 […]

In the Labs – Spring 2016

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Archaeometallurgy at the Penn Museum: Then and Now

By: Moritz Jansen

Archaeometallurgy is the scientific investigation of the technology and provenance of ancient metals. The study of the production, processing, and exchange of metal in prehistoric and historic times has a long tradition at the Penn Museum. The Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) now integrates archaeometallurgy into Penn students’ education. Many leading archaeometallurgists […]

Member News

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Meet Our Members: Ed and Pay Coyle GED05

New Galleries of the Ancient Middle East Previewed On June 2, members of the Expedition Circle and Loren Eiseley Society enjoyed cocktails in the Warden Garden and a design preview of the Museum’s new Galleries of the Ancient Middle East, set to open in Fall 2017. Afterward, Loren Eiseley Society members celebrated at the annual […]

Museum News – Spring 2016

New Acquisitions The American Section gratefully received 15 Pre-Columbian ceramic objects from the North Coast and Sierra of Peru, which were collected by Dr. Stuart G. Younkin during his business trips to Peru between 1961 to 1968. The vessels date from 1000 BCE–1430 CE and represent a wide range of vegetables, fruits, and animals native […]

Stories from the Penn Museum

From the Editor

By: Jane Hickman

The Spring 2016 issue includes four articles related to the work of the Penn Museum. We open with “Secrets of Ancient Magic: The Power of Spells, Curses, & Omens,” which is tied to the current exhibition “Magic in the Ancient World”. Professors Bob Ousterhout and Grant Frame taught a curatorial seminar in 2015 that led […]