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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. Program include:


Helping the Past Speak to Us
Archaeologists find things in groups, not one at a time, using the whole of what is found to learn about the past. This workshop guides you through a discussion of archaeological method, based on the fictitious murder of the speaker and a 300-years-after-the-fact recovery of the body. Participants learn that the important discovery is not the body but the sum total of all the things buried with the body: coins, eye glasses, pocket knife, personal jewelry, and so on. None of these finds would have been meaningful alone, but, together these things provide a surprisingly complete picture of the victim, despite the time between his murder and the discovery of the body. This example is followed by a discussion of a single artifact and the importance of context for understanding it, stressing that objects found together in context tell a stronger story than individual objects. After this, view photographs from an excavation of an Italian cemetery and discuss the contexts found that may bring meaning to the objects.
Women and Archaeology
Until only recently, archaeology was a male dominated field. Meet a female Egyptian archaeologist, Shelby Justl, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, and learn what opportunities and challenges women encounter in archaeology, especially working globally in the Middle East where the majority of team members are men.
"Can you dig it?"
Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
Every year, Egyptian archeologists brush away sand and discover unknown pharaoh’s tombs or ancient hidden cities. Ever wonder what an archeologist actually does? How do they decide where to dig? Egyptian archaeologist Shelby Justl shows a typical day in the field, exposes you to recent incredible discoveries, and introduces experimental archaeology. Experimental archaeology is a method of understanding and recreating the past by actually performing the practices of the past, such as mummifying animals, firing pottery, building houses, mixing medical poultices and perfumes, baking bread, and brewing beer all according to ancient records.
Is Archaeology Really Like Indiana Jones?
Petra, "The Rose-Red City Half as Old as Time,” is nestled in a mountainous basin in a remote, rugged corner of Jordan. Recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Petra is famous for its rock-cut tombs and monuments, including a Roman theater capable of seating as many as 8,500 people. Petra served for a time as one of the major trading centers of the ancient world. It also served as a backdrop for scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After a series of earthquakes in about 400 AD, Petra lay essentially abandoned; it was not rediscovered until 1812. Archaeological investigations at Petra continue to the present day. This presentation takes you behind the scenes on an actual dig at the site, where you will learn archaeology techniques, and whether or not archaeology is really like Indiana Jones.
Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict
There are growing international concerns about the threats modern society poses to Egyptian cultural heritage. Current archaeological digs lie next to modern villages with residents walking through them and wildly spread rumors of treasure leading to illegal digging and black-market artifact sales. This workshop explores the effects of modern people on Penn’s archaeological site in Abydos. Your group will engage in a broader discussion of cultural heritage preservation through examination of political events such as Arab Spring, which affected Egyptian museums and archaeological sites. In the end, debate important questions such as, “Should objects remain in their country of origin in times of conflict?,” “Do you think statues, jewelry, and mummies should be transported to museums worldwide to reach a broader audience or should they remain in Egypt as their cultural property?”


Sweet Home Egypt
Ancient Egyptian Cities and Daily Life
Travel back in time to 1500 BCE to see ancient Egypt beyond the pyramids and mummies with Egyptologist Shelby Justl. Explore ancient Egyptian settlements and daily life, including the glamorous palaces of Pharaohs, to huge private officials’ villas, to small workmen’s dwellings. Learn more about the ancient Egyptians’ childhood, family life, occupations, leisure activities, and even what the clothing they wore and the food that they ate. Sweet Home Egypt also shares how ancient Egyptians handled challenges like illness, grief, theft, lazy co-workers, and bad bosses.
Words of the Gods
Learning to Write Egyptian Hieroglphs
For around 3,000 years, the ancient Egyptians used a writing system that is known to us today as Egyptian Hieroglyphs. What we see as pictures of animals, weird shapes, and squiggly lines, are part of a complex writing system the Egyptians used to communicate between each other and even to their gods. In this workshop, Paul Verhelst, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Archaeology Program will guide you through 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. Students will learn to write basic hieroglyphs as part of the workshop.

Biological and Forensic Anthropology

In Sickness or in Health
The Archaeology of Disease
Archaeologists can gain a great deal of knowledge about past people just by looking at their bones. In this program, students learn what techniques and methods archaeologists use to reveal information about someone’s age, sex, height, previous injuries, cause of death, etc. Special emphasis is given to the evidence for disease in ancient cultures. Focusing on excavations in Italy as examples, Espenlaub and the students investigate the clues left on human bones to learn about which diseases may have affected humans in the past and what that meant to those they affected.

Classical Archaeology

Exploring the Classical World through Artifacts
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 foundations of Western culture? Archaeology and the study of objects allow us to move beyond the reading of history as a body of facts to actively inquiring about the past. Using examples from two current excavations in Greece, groups will explore some of the exciting methods of archaeological and historical analysis, ranging from the examination of ancient texts to ultra-scientific studies of objects and even soils. You will then have an opportunity to interact with objects and formulate their own questions about objects and the ancient world.
Who were the Romans?
Investigating the Roman Ancient Empire
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 look at variations in Roman culture all around the ancient Mediterranean - from Spain to Syria. With the guidance of Dr. Sarah Beckmann, a Classical Archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania, students will learn how to recognize and interpret different kinds of Roman architecture and sculpture, using critical and creative analysis to highlight variations. Students will also have the opportunity to handle ancient artifacts. In doing so, they will learn firsthand how archaeological evidence is used to ask questions about daily life in different parts of the Roman world.
Gifts for the Greek Gods
Religion dominated many aspects of life in ancient Greece. The ancient 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 reveals that people of all ages, genders, classes, and geographical locations gave gifts to the gods. These included the bones from thousands of sacrificed animals and votive dedications, ranging from small and inexpensive ceramic objects to elaborate ivory sculptures covered in gold. Why did the ancient Greeks spend so much time, money, and resources on these gifts, and what was the meaning behind such sacrifice? After exploring how, why, and what gifts were given to the gods, create their own votive dedications that express their personal identity, individual style, and desired outcome.

Middle East

Not Quite as Easy as ABC
Learning to Write Sumerian 4000 Years Ago and Today
The Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia created perhaps the earliest written collection of stories in the world - or rather their children did. Archaeologists have dug up the exercise tablets on Sumerian children practiced learning signs and copying myths and legends by the thousands. Using both ancient tablets from the collection of Penn Museum and modern clay and styluses, your group will follow the path of the ancient scribes as they learned the mysteries of the cuneiform writing system.
Life in the Swamps of Sumer
Swamps have a bad reputation in modern society. They are wet, full of nasty creatures, and they spread disease. Why have people made swamps their home from the distant past to the modern day? In this presentation, learn about the ancient and modern people who have lived in the swamps of Sumer, modern southern Iraq. They will consider what benefits swamps provide, and how people can adapt to live in them. Your group will also learn about the important role that swamps play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, and what can happen when they suddenly disappear.
A Portrait of a Queen in Early Mesopotamia
The Royal Cemetery at Ur provides unparalleled insights into early Mesopotamian funerary customs of the elite. What do we know about the woman who was given the elaborate burial known as PG 800? In early Mesopotamia, women - even elite women - were generally described in relation to their husbands. Learn how the occupant of PG 800 proves the exception, as she is identified solely as "Puabi, Queen." The considerable wealth of her tomb attests to her power, importance, and prestige as an early Mesopotamian ruler. In this workshop, you will explore the archaeological context, burial goods, and forensic remains that teach us about the life, death, and afterlife of Queen Puabi.