The Museum’s magnificent Egyptian collections span more than 5,000 years of history. They include the largest Sphinx in the Western Hemisphere, architectural elements from the only pharaonic palace outside of Egypt, and mummies, both human and animal. The new Egyptian Galleries will set these materials and their stories—drawn from over a century of Penn excavations in Egypt, with discoveries that continue today—in rich new context, bringing the beliefs and cultures of a magnificent ancient civilization to life. One of the most stunning elements of the new Galleries will be the columns and pylons of the 13th-century-BCE palace of the pharaoh Merenptah, displayed at full height for the first time since their excavation. The new Egyptian Galleries will be the place where ancient Egypt becomes present.
Penn Museum Object Number: E12615A
The Crossroads of Cultures Gallery will explore the eastern Mediterranean as a hub of ideas, art, technologies, and empires. It will focus on the coast of Israel—a crossroads of cultural exchange and creativity for the last 10,000 years—and its material and cultural connections to the surrounding lands. This exploration will showcase spectacular objects and architectural monuments excavated by the Penn Museum at sites like Beth Shean (in modern-day Israel), with its settlements from the Egyptian, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine areas. The Crossroads Gallery will tell the story of external influences and internal cultural richness, highlighting local invention as well as the sharing and modification of foreign motifs and artistic traditions.
Penn Museum Object Number: 29-103-775
Writing is perhaps humanity’s greatest invention. The new Writing Gallery will explore writing revolutions across centuries and cultures, tracing how writing itself came to be and how it shaped—and shapes—human societies. The Museum’s collections of written materials are vast, with a uniquely deep concentration on the early written word that includes the largest number of Sumerian school tablets and literary works in any museum. Our researchers study languages from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and Mesoamerica—scripts from cuneiform to Maya, Elamite to Lolo, Etruscan to Egyptian. Drawing on these rich collections and research, the Writing Gallery will tell the fascinating story of writing, its evolutions, its role in societies, and its ever-changing forms through objects like Babylonian clay tablets, Chinese oracle bones, Indus Valley seals, Egyptian papyri, and Mesoamerican maps.
Penn Museum Object Number: 68-32-2A and B
The Museum’s towering Rotunda and adjacent spaces feature artifacts from our Asian collections, to be showcased in newly renovated and redesigned galleries. The collections include masterpieces of early bronze casting, tomb architecture, ceramics, coins, burial goods, prints and decorative arts, textiles, musical instruments, and manuscripts—a range of objects that shows the richness and diversity of Asian cultural production and artistic achievement. In the Rotunda itself, the Museum will explore aspects of the history of Buddhism in Asia across 2,000 years, anchored by two large 15th-century Chinese Buddhist murals, each about 30 feet wide and 18 feet high, currently being conserved to reveal their original bright colors and intricate details. Monumental stone sculptures from China, architectural elements from India, Tibetan thangka paintings and temple goods, and ceramic tile work, metalwork, paintings, and manuscripts from across the region are part of the Museum’s collection, ready to tell this international story.
Penn Museum Object Number: 2011-12-5