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Archaeology and Anthropology Experts

Our Museum-affiliated scholars share their experiences in the field through visuals, hands-on activities, and interactive discussions.

Anthropology

Local History & Communities

Architectural Treasures of the Keystone State
Educator: Steve Abrams, M.A., Independent Performing Arts Professional
Location: At the Museum

Every building has a story to tell. The rich architectural heritage of Pennsylvania is explored through a survey of banks, barns, churches, and houses from all over the state. Learn to look for the special features and styles that make old buildings worth preserving.

Material Cultures and Stories from Native American Voices
Educator: Stephanie Mach, Academic Coordinator, Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology
Location: At the Museum
Available in Spring 2022

Did you know that there are more than 500 federally recognized Native tribes in the United States? In this workshop, students explore the diversity of Indigenous cultures and gain deeper understanding of one Native American tribe, the Navaho or the Lenni Lenape. Students learn about the unique histories and meanings of Native American artifacts, and how they convey stories about the peoples who created and used them.

The Sphinx That Moved to Philadelphia
Educator: Stephen Phillips, Ph.D., Curatorial Research Coordinator, Egyptian Section
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

June 12, 2019, is a date that will live forever in the history of the Penn Museum. On that day, for the first time in nearly a century, the iconic 12.5-ton sphinx was lifted from its base and moved more than 900 feet (and one floor up!) to its new permanent home in the Museum’s redesigned Main Entrance Hall.

What is a sphinx and what did it represent to the ancient Egyptians? This lecture tells the history of the largest sphinx in the Western Hemisphere from its discovery in Egypt at Memphis in the early 20th century to its subsequent transport to Philadelphia and recent move within the Museum. Get a behind-the scenes look at the engineering and human effort involved in moving this monumental and priceless piece of history.


Cultural Anthropology

Asian Theater
Educator: Steve Abrams, M.A., Independent Performing Arts Professional
Location: At the Museum

A survey of traditional dance and drama of India, Indonesia, and Japan presented in light of the myths, origins, and practices of these colorful artforms. Using costumes, masks, makeup, and music, this lecture provides a meaningful exploration of theatrical traditions that are having a growing impact on Western drama.

Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict
Educator: Shelby Justl, Ph.D., Critical Writing Program Lecturer
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

There are growing international concerns about the threats to Egyptian cultural heritage posed by modern society. Children walk through current archaeological digs to get to school, and rumors of golden treasure fuel illicit digging and black-market artifact sales. This workshop opens with a presentation on present-day threats to Penn’s own archaeological site in Abydos. Participants will then engage in a broader discussion of cultural heritage preservation through examination of political events such as the Arab Spring, which affected Egyptian museums and archaeological sites.

Essentialism, Stereotypes, and Appropriation
Educator: Stephanie Mach, Academic Coordinator, Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology
Location: At the Museum
Available in Spring 2022

Anthropology is the study of humans, but is research always passive or objective? This workshop raises questions around who is being represented, how, and by whom. Students learn how anthropology as an academic field has both deepened understanding of human cultures and promoted stereotypes. How do perceptions of cultures get skewed and where is this happening today? Practice your critical thinking and visual literacy by examining representations of Native Americans in written history, pop culture, and inside the Museum.

Identity, Politics, and Culture
A Case Analysis of U.S. Expansion
Educator: Stephanie Mach, Academic Coordinator, Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology
Location: At the Museum
Available in Spring 2022

Today there are more than 500 federally recognized Indigenous nations within the United States. And Indigenous peoples were in contact and conflict with colonial settlers long before the writing of the U.S. constitution. When did Indigenous nations lose their sovereignty? How and why was genocide of Indigenous peoples carried out? What is cultural assimilation and how are anthropologists implicated in this history? This workshop explores the history of Indigenous-U.S. relations and Native Americans’ fight for sovereignty, agency, land, and cultural preservation. Students learn about Manifest Destiny, structural racism, and anthropology using a critical lens to examine identity, politics, and culture.

Masks, Makeup, and Mystery
Educator: Steve Abrams, M.A., Independent Performing Arts Professional
Location: At the Museum

On every continent and in every age, people have devised ways to cover the face. Masks of wood, feathers, shell, and paint are often works of great beauty and power. This lecture looks at the various functions of masks across many cultures, and explores why they are made and how they continue to grip us.

Women and Archaeology
Educator: Shelby Justl, Ph.D., Critical Writing Program Lecturer
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

When archaeological research began in the early 20th century, there were only a handful of female practitioners in the field. Today, women make up roughly half of all archaeologists in the United States. While women are generally accepted in the field, female archaeologists still encounter many professional barriers. Meet a female archaeologist and learn about the challenges and opportunities women like her face both in the classroom and at dig sites. Hear about the real-life experiences of an archaeologist working in the mountains of Greece or the deserts of Egypt!


Archaeology

Field Experience

500 Miles Up the Nile
A Journey to Modern Ancient Egypt
Educator: Stephen Phillips, Ph.D., Curatorial Research Coordinator, Egyptian Section
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

This photographic essay takes students along with Dr. Phillips and a tour group of intrepid friends on their extraordinary 14-day journey up the timeless Nile River. In post-revolution Egypt, they journey from Old Cairo and the Great Pyramids to Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, and onward to the mighty Temples of Philae and Abu Simbel. Students experience the rich diversity of modern ancient Egypt from a firsthand guide and learn that not everything we read in newspapers or see on TV reflects the reality of life in this distant land.

Is Archaeology Really Like Indiana Jones?
Educator: Stephen Phillips, Ph.D., Curatorial Research Coordinator, Egyptian Section
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

Petra, “a rose-red city half as old as Time,” is nestled in a mountainous basin in a remote, rugged corner of Jordan. As one of the “new seven wonders of the ancient world,” Petra is famous for its more than 800 rock-cut tombs and monuments, including a Roman theater capable of seating as many as 8,500 people. Archaeological investigations at Petra continue to the present day, as students will learn from exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to Dr. Phillips’ own work on a dig at the Temple of the Winged Lions. Learn on-site excavation techniques, experience life on an archaeological dig, and see if real-life archaeology is anything like the movies.


Ancient Mediterranean Archaeology

Exploring the Greek and Roman World Through Artifacts
Educator: Emily French, Ph.D. Candidate in Mediterranean Archaeology, or Janelle Sadarananda, Ph.D. Candidate in Mediterranean Archaeology
Location: Virtual or at the Museum

How do we know what we know about the ancient Greek and Roman worlds? What types of evidence do we have to answer our many questions about these civilizations, which are often considered the foundation of Western culture? Archaeology and the study of objects allow us to move beyond reading history as a body of facts to actively inquiring about the past. Using examples from current excavations in the Mediterranean, groups will explore exciting methods of archaeological and historical analysis, ranging from the examination of ancient texts to ultra-scientific studies of objects and even soils.

Gifts for the Greek Gods
Educator: Emily French, Ph.D. Candidate in Mediterranean Archaeology or Janelle Sadarananda, Ph.D. Candidate in Mediterranean Archaeology
Location: Virtual or at the Museum

Religion dominated many aspects of life in ancient Greece. The texts and sacred rituals related to ancient Greek religion were often kept secret, so we rely on the objects that remain from these gifts and sacrifices to tell the story. The number and range of ritual artifacts found through excavations of sanctuaries reveal that people of all ages, genders, classes, and geographical locations gave gifts to the gods. Why did the ancient Greeks spend so much time, money, and resources on these gifts, and what were the meanings behind such sacrifices? After exploring how, why, and what gifts were given to the gods, students will create their own votive dedications that express their personal identity, style, and desires.

Greek Vases and Mythology
Educator: Emily French, Ph.D. Candidate in Mediterranean Archaeology or Janelle Sadarananda, Ph.D. Candidate in Mediterranean Archaeology
Location: Virtual or at the Museum

Vases are some of the most famous artifacts from ancient Greece. They were used in numerous areas of ancient Greek life and archaeologists find them across the Greek world. In this program, students take on the role of archaeologists, learning how and why we study Greek vases. They will explore how people made and used vases, and what their decorations reveal. Using visual analysis, students will learn how to interpret the scenes depicted on Greek vases, which take a dynamic story, often mythological, and capture it in a single scene or static narrative.

Who Were the Romans?
Educator: Emily French, Ph.D. Candidate in Mediterranean Archaeology
Location: At the Museum

What do we mean when we talk about Romans and the Roman world? This workshop invites students to explore Roman culture by looking beyond Italy to variations of this culture around the ancient Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria. Students work as archaeologists, learning how to recognize and interpret different kinds of Roman architecture and sculpture, and using critical and creative comparative analysis to highlight variations. Students learn firsthand how archaeological evidence is used to ask questions about daily life in different parts of the Roman world.


Ancient Egyptian Archaeology

The Mystery of the Circular Structures Behind the Great Pyramids at Giza
Educator: Stephen Phillips, Ph.D., Curatorial Research Coordinator, Egyptian Section
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

The pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza are not lone monuments in the desert; they are part of a vast cemetery complex that stretches nearly a mile from east to west. A joint archaeological excavation by Cairo University and Brown University has been mapping and surveying the northwestern section of the cemetery since 2000. This behind-the-scenes lecture introduces the excavation and its goals, methodology, personnel, and discoveries to date, much of which is now being published. Examine the rediscovery and excavation of a pair of circular structures constructed of sun-dried mud brick and shaped like igloos—the only examples of their kind found yet.

Sweet Home Egypt
Ancient Egyptian Cities and Daily Life
Educator: Shelby Justl, Ph.D., Critical Writing Program Lecturer
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

Travel back in time to 1500 BCE with Egyptologist Shelby Justl to see ancient Egypt beyond the pyramids and mummies. Explore ancient Egyptian settlements and daily life, including the glamorous palaces of pharaohs, the elaborate villas of private officials, and the simple dwellings of workmen. Students learn about ancient Egyptian childhood, family life, occupations, leisure, clothing, and diet. Sweet Home Egypt also shares how ancient Egyptians handled challenges like illness, grief, theft, lazy co-workers, and bad bosses.

Food in Ancient Egypt
Educator: Stephen Phillips, Ph.D., Curatorial Research Coordinator, Egyptian Section
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

What did the ancient Egyptians eat and drink? What may have comprised a typical ancient meal? Did they have beer? Wine? Pizza Hut? The diet of the ancient Egyptians was far more varied than you might think. They woke up hungry for breakfast just like you! This highly visual, illustrated workshop offers an introduction to the diet of the ancient Egyptians. Find out what we know and how we came to know it through archaeology and images the ancient Egyptians themselves created thousands of years ago. Then, as now, the fertile Nile River valley produced a rich variety of food products.


Middle Eastern Archaeology

Not Quite as Easy as ABC
Learning to Write in Sumerian Cuneiform
Educator: Phillip Jones, Ph.D., Associate Curator and Keeper, Babylonian Section
Location: At the Museum

The Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia created perhaps the earliest written collection of stories in the world, or rather, their children did. Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of tablets on which Sumerian children practiced writing cuneiform. Exercises included copying signs, myths, and legends. Using both ancient tablets from the collection of the Penn Museum and modern clay and styluses, students join the ancient scribes in learning the mysteries of the cuneiform writing system.

Words of the Gods
Learning to Write Egyptian Hieroglyphs
Educator: Paul Verhelst, CAAM Instructional Support, Ph.D. Candidate in Near Eastern Studies and Civilization
Location: Virtual

For around 3,000 years, the ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphs. What we see as pictures of animals, odd shapes, and squiggly lines are part of a complex writing system the Egyptians used to communicate with one another and their gods. In this workshop, participants will learn how the ancient Egyptians used pictures, sounds, and something called determinatives to write monumental inscriptions as well as administrative, legal, mathematical, medical, and literary texts. Together, we'll journey through the history, development, and rediscovery of one of the world's first written languages and practice writing basic hieroglyphs.


European Archaeology

At the Dawn of Art
Inside the Painted Caves of Southwest France
Educator: Stephen Phillips, Ph.D., Curatorial Research Coordinator, Egyptian Section
Location: Virtual, at the Museum, or at your organization

Our ability to express ourselves symbolically through art is among the features that make our species unique in the animal kingdom. Scholarly research into the origins of human art plays an important role in anthropological research to this very day. Why produce art at all? Can we, from our viewpoint tens of thousands of years later, even understand the intent of the Paleolithic artisans who created these images deep inside remote caves? Learn from your guide, Dr. Steve, who visited several remarkable caves while excavating Neanderthal archaeological sites in southwest France over four summers.