Housing one of the world’s greatest collections of ancient artifacts from around the world, the Museum illustrates the human story: who we are and where we came from. Get the most out of your trip to the Penn Museum and add-on a guided tour of our galleries!
Tours are led by expert-trained Museum Docents or Graduate Scholar and offer your group their extraordinary insight into the rich history behind our collections and artifacts. Choose from an in-depth tour of one of our galleries, or plan a themed highlights tour which spans multiple galleries!
Tours can accommodate up to thirty people and are one-hour long.
Our Signature and Special Exhibitions are place-based – take a themed gallery tour to travel to another place and time. Tour guides and gallery availability are subject to change.
Magic in the Ancient World - Closing September 4, 2017!
Are people who used magic in the ancient world so different from people today? Deeply entwined with science and religion, magic was a real and everyday part of life for many ancient peoples around the world. Ancient magic addressed many of the dreams, hopes, and passions humans grapple with today: desire for health and wellbeing, protection from evil—even revenge.
Fascinating artifacts, many from the colonial period of this diverse continent, include masks, staffs, musical instruments, ivory, and jewelry, as well as objects of everyday life.
The Penn Museum’s late 21st century excavations in the Levant collected most of these artifacts, which demonstrate the influence of other cultures on objects of daily life.
An architectural marvel in its own right, the majestic Chinese Rotunda houses one of the finest collections of monumental Chinese art in the country.
Our Egypt Galleries contain a monumental 15-ton granite sphinx, the centerpiece of one of the finest collections of Egyptian architecture on display in the United States. Along with ancient mummies, you’ll find carved relief, stone coffins, and exquisite three-dimensional sculpture testifying to the superb craftsmanship of Egyptian sculptors throughout history.
Engraved gems, bronze statuettes, arms and armor, terracotta vessels, fine bucchero pottery, and elegant filigreed gold jewelry illustrate this once-prosperous and influential empire.
Ancient Greek society is illuminated through 400+ objects, including exquisite painted vases with depictions of ancient gods and myths, bronze armor, marble sculptures, and coinage.
Examples of the pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica include carved limestone monuments with Maya hieroglyphic writing and carved alabaster vases from the Uloa Valley in Honduras.
Remarkable objects from across the nation, paired with contemporary voices, combine to offer a new understanding of the first inhabitants of the North American continent, as told through Native American perspectives.
The artistic, commercial and technical achievements of the Romans are showcased through marble and bronze sculptures, engraved gems, jewelry, gold and silver coins, and celebrated Roman glass.
Can’t choose just one gallery? Arrange for a themed highlights tour that spans multiple galleries! Since over 200 of our objects are featured in the Smithsonian’s History of the World in 1000 Objects book, these tours help you explore some of the best cultural objects throughout the globe.
Oh I just can’t wait to be King!
Roll out the red carpet while you discover ancient Egyptian Kingship from birth to death, and everything in between. Uncovering the role of the King as a prolific builder and protector of the borders, your group will have the chance to spend a day in royalty’s shoes!
Culinary Expeditions: Ancient Diet and Tools for Cooking
Dig into this globetrotting, gustatory journey: discover ancient diets such as the “power bars” of the ancient Africans, hear the hymns of praise to Ninkasi (the Mesopotamian goddess of beer), and uncover how biomolecular archaeology sheds light on ancient alcohol. Then “sober up” and listen to the cautious advice about the hazards of excess drinking given from an Egyptian father to son on a papyrus note. Explore how have our diets and eating habits changed since the time of the Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians. The findings may surprise you!
Archaeology Around the Museum
What do objects tell us about the history, culture, and technology of the societies that produced them? This tour explains how archaeologists know what they know about the past. Archaeology is the study of human history through material evidence – this research helps us understand past cultures. Trek through seven galleries within the Museum, focusing on 11 of the 200 Penn Museum artifacts featured in the Smithsonian publication History of the World in 1000 Objects. Journey through the past and uncover fantastic artifacts from China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Etruscan Italy, Mesoamerica and Africa.
The Afterlife: You Can’t Take It With You
Take a look at the different burial traditions and beliefs about the afterlife. A universal concept, the afterlife is a realm in which an essential part of an individual continues to exist after the death. On this cross-cultural tour, your group will view a number of important historical objects – usually those that were buried along with a person – to see what they can tell us about that culture’s understanding of the afterlife. Uncover the grave goods which served as exemplars of a culture’s concept of the afterlife and explore how each culture fashioned an afterlife unique to its experience; one that meshed with its understanding of the physical world.
Global Connections in the Ancient World
In our dynamic global economy, take a step back into history and unearth how ancient civilizations around the world interacted and inspired one another. Investigate the lasting impact that the global trade of goods, ideas, and theories had on the development of cultures. Learn how objects in our collection tell ongoing stories of interconnectedness across time and space – with both positive and negative effects. The tour will reveal what may be the first world religion, how West Africa affected European History, how one spearhead changed our view of the past, and how lucky Philadelphia is to have this world-class collection of artifacts.
Artistry Throughout the Ages
The Penn Museum encapsulates and illustrates the human story: who we are and where we came from. Tour multiple place-themed galleries, such as China, Rome, and Africa, while you reflect on the history of human beings and how the past has shaped our world today. Featured artifacts exemplify a range of artistic media across time and cultures, demonstrating the human ability to create artistic, functional, and ritualistic objects. From personal objects to public monuments, the tour underscores our shared human heritage as makers and appreciators of objects.