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Penn Museum

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University of Pennsylvania Museum

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, commonly called Penn Museum, is an archaeology and anthropology museum. Penn Museum’s collections fall into two main categories: archaeology, the artefacts recovered from the past by excavation, and ethnology, the objects and ideas collected from our Cultural Heritage. More than 20 galleries feature objects from around the world and throughout the ages.

Highlights of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Penn Museum Collections

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has undertaken over 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions around the world. In 1887, the University of Pennsylvania to erect a specialist building to house artifacts from the expedition to the ancient site of Nippur in modern-day Iraq. During this period, western museums regularly sponsored such excavations throughout the Mediterranean and Near East, sharing the ownership of their discoveries with the host country. Thus the majority of Penn Museum’s collections have a known and scholarly documented archaeological context, increasing their value for research and education purposes.

Today the Museum’s gallery space feature collections from the ancient Mediterranean World, Egypt, the Near East, Mesopotamia, East Asia, and Mesoamerica, as well as artifacts from the indigenous peoples of Africa and Native America. The key collections include:

Iraq Collection

The museum’s most important collection is of the Royal Tombs of Ur, which The University of Pennsylvania co–excavated with the British Museum in Iraq. Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer, and the artifacts from its royal tombs showcase the city’s culture. The collections consists of a variety of crowns, figures, and musical instruments.

The museum’s Babylonian section houses a collection of almost 30,000 clay tablets inscribed in Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform, making it one of the largest collections in the world, ranging from 2900 to 500 BCE.

Egypt Collection

The museum’s collection house an extensive collection of statuary, mummies, and reliefs. The museum also houses Egyptian columns and a 13-ton granite Sphinx of Ramesses II and a significant Papyrus collection.

Africa Collection

The Penn Museum has one of the largest collections of African ethnographic and archaeological objects from all regions of Africa, with significant artifacts from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Angola, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Madagascar.

China Collection

The Chinese collection includes some of the finest Chinese sculpture in America, including reliefs of Emperor Tang Taizong’s six horses which he used to unify China during the Tang Dynasty.

Mesoamerica Collection

The Mesoamerican collections include objects from Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica. The Museum conducted an excavation of the Mayan city of Tikal, Guatemala from 1956 to 1970. Important artifacts from this excavation in the museum, include several stelae from the contemporary cities of Caracol and Piedras Negras.

South America Collection

The Museum’s South American collection include anthropological materials from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. Over thirty indigenous tribes from Brazil are represented in the ethnographic collection, including, twelve indigenous groups from Guyana and over twenty-five native groups from Peru.

North America Collection

The North American archaeological collections contain specimens from most of the United States, especially Alaska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Texas. The vast ethnographic collection is attributed to about 200 ethnic groups and organized within eleven geographic regions. The diverse geographic regions covered are Arctic, Sub-Arctic, Northwest Coast, Plateau, California, Great Basin, Southwest, Great Plains, Southeast and Northeast.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

  • Name:              The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology – Penn Museum
  • City:                  Philadelphia
  • Country:           United States
  • Established:     1887
  • Type:                Anthropology and Archaeology Museum
  • Locations:        3260 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States


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Photo Credit: SM