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Invisible Beauty

The Art of Archaeological Science

Included with General Admission
Lower Level

On view through June 6, 2021

Even the smallest artifacts and specimens are packed with hidden information about the past—we just need the right technology to see it.

Basalt as seen under the microscope
Basalt as seen under the microscope. This rock inclusion is part of a ceramic tile from Gordion in present-day Turkey.

When people imagine archaeologists, they often picture someone working in the field, but new discoveries are constantly happening in the laboratory. Using instruments to reveal the microscopic and hidden world, archaeologists and anthropologists extract information from artifacts, specimens, and landscapes—metallurgical textures, colorful crystals, and cellular structures—and answer questions related to technology, use, trade, diet, health, and the environment. This unseen world is also astoundingly beautiful and inspires a sense of wonder.

Invisible Beauty also highlights the important role of research in archaeological discovery—from undergraduate student research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania to the professionals leading cutting-edge work inside Museum’s Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM).

Burned rice grains
Researchers burned rice grains as part of a lab-based experiment to help identify evidence of fermentation at archaeological sites.
Close up of woven threads wrapped in metal
A detailed view of this textile reveals how Persian weavers crafted beautiful designs from metal-wrapped thread.

Exhibition Curators

Marie-Claude Boileau, Ph.D. Director of the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) and Adjunct Associate Professor of Classical Studies Graduate Group in the Art & Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

Sarah Linn, Ph.D. Research Liaison


Book Your Virtual Group Tour of Invisible Beauty

Gather up to 30 people to explore Invisible Beauty with a one-hour virtual tour! Peer through the microscope together to witness the surprising imagery and insights revealed when we zoom in on ancient artifacts at multiple scales.

Available through June 6, 2021

Learn More