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Highlights of the Penn Museum

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Highlights of the Penn Museum

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology or Penn Museum is dedicated to the understanding of cultural diversity and the exploration of the history of humankind. The Penn has conducted more than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions around the world. Penn Museum acquired the majority of its collections from sponsored excavations and as a result, most of the Museum’s objects have a known archaeological context.

The Museum’s’ gallery space features historical objects from the ancient Mediterranean World, Egypt, the Near East, Mesopotamia, East Asia, and Mesoamerica, as well as artefacts from the indigenous peoples of Africa and Native America.

Penn Museum

  • Marble Portrait of Agrippina the Elder
    • This Marble Portrait depicts Agrippina the Elder (14 BC – 33 AD). Vipsania Agrippina, commonly known as Agrippina the Elder was a distinguished and prominent Roman woman. Her husband Germanicus was a general and statesman and a relative to the first Roman Emperors. Germanicus was a great-nephew of Emperor Augustus, and Agrippina bore nine of Germanicus’ children.
  • Herm of Herakles and Hermes
    • This marble sculpture is a Herm of Herakles and Hermes. A herm is a sculpture with a head above a plain usually squared lower section. The form originated in Ancient Greece and was adopted by the Romans, and revived during the Renaissance in the forms of Term and Atlantes in architectural elements in classical buildings.
  • Marble head of Emperor Caracalla
    • This marble head depicting Emperor Caracalla is an imperial portrait. Portraits of Roman Emperors ranging from small palm-sized statues to large colossal sculptures were distributed throughout the empire. This statue of Caracalla is not large enough to serve as a public propaganda vehicle. It was probably owned by a private wealthy supporter who wanted to demonstrate loyalty.
  • Cult Statue Head of Diana
    • This “Cult Statue Head of Diana” is assumed to be a cult statue of Diana because it is idealised, conservatively styled, large-scale and discovered near Nemi’s important temples. It was probably adorned with a bronze or gold diadem.
  • Wine Transport Amphoras
    • This Wine Transport Amphora was found in a Mediterranean shipwreck by the underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. Cousteau recovered some 1,200 amphoras from the Grand Congloué island near Marseille, off the southern coast of France.
  • Greenstone Mask
    • This Greenstone Mask is made of dark green soft stone with natural white coloured large spot represent eyes. Originating from Central America it is thought to belong to the Toltec culture. The name Toltec has many meanings including an “urbanite” or a “cultured” person.
  • Egyptian Stela Fragment
    • This 5,000-year-old “Egyptian Stela Fragment” is a Stele that depicts a seated couple, sculpted in sunken relief. It shows a wife and husband with the small figure of a servant holding a jar and offering a drink of beer to the man with Hieroglyphic text above the figures.
  • Sumerian Cone or Clay Nail
    • This “Cone” with Cuneiform inscription was used by Sumerians and other Mesopotamian cultures beginning in the third millennium BC. These Sumerian historical objects are also called “clay nails” or “foundation pegs”. Sumer was the first urban civilisation and is the site of the earliest known civilisation, located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in the area that is now southern Iraq.
  • Clovis Weapons & Tools
    • These “Clovis Weapons and Tools” are ancient tools which are over 10,000 years old created by the Clovis culture originally based around current day near Clovis, New Mexico, US. The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture, named for the distinct stone tools discovered in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • Mayan Altar
    • This Mayan Altar was discovered in Caracol which is a large ancient Mayan archaeological site, located in what is now Belize. It rests on a plateau which is 500 meters above sea-level, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. Caracol is recognised as one of the most important regional political centres of the Maya Lowlands during the Classic Mayan Period.
  • Shawabti of King Senkamanisken
    • The “Shawabti of King Senkamanisken” is a funerary figurine for Senkamanisken who was a Nubian king, ruling from 640 to 620 BCE at Napata. Napata was a city-state of ancient Nubia on the west bank of the Nile River, at the site of modern Northern Sudan. Nubia had gained control over Egypt but lost it shortly before Senkamanisken came to power. Egyptian in style, this Shawabti shows the influence of Egyptian art and culture on Nubia at this time.
  • Coptic Pendant Crosses
    • “Coptic Pendant Crosses” have been worn by Ethiopians, like other Christians, as a visual symbol of their faith over 1,600 years. The Coptic Cross shows Greek or Latin influence, while more elaborate designs hold symbolic messages. The crosses above are of various configurations, some are ornamental works formed into delicate tracery, some are decoratively notched, and some are of a simple cross-shape with incising.
  • Jar Handles with Judean “Royal Stamp”
    • These “Jar Handles with Judean “Royal Stamp” belonged to storage jars that were made nearly 3,000 years ago which have visible impressions of stamps on their handles. The stamp impressions consist of an inscription in palaeo-Hebrew together with a symbol. The inscription on the handle above reads “lmlk” which translates to “belonging to King”. The royal symbol is a four-winged beetle.

Building works at the Penn Museum

The Penn Museum is upgrading some of its galleries and amenities which will dramatically reconfigure the Museum’s historic building. Some galleries might be closed and some of the collection might not be on display during the building works. Check with the museum for the latest details.

Visiting the Penn Museum

The Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, at the intersection of Spruce Street and 33rd Street. Nearby landmarks include Franklin Field, across South Street, and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, across 34th Street.

  • Hours:
    • Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
    • First Wednesdays 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
    • Monday CLOSED
    • Check web site for latest updates and Holiday Closures.

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Photo Credit: GM