university of pennsylvania museum of archaeology and anthropology

Plot synopsis for the upcoming action-horror film, the Mummy (2017), indicates that the lead antagonist will be an ancient Mesopotamian queen “whose destiny was unjustly taken from her.” Tom Cruise will play a Navy SEAL on a mission in the Iraqi desert whose team stumbles upon an ancient tomb where an evil entity is trapped. This doomed queen/mummy could be inspired by the sensationalized 1920s and 1930s news stories of British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley’s excavation of Queen Puabi’s tomb. Puabi (AKA Shubad) was depicted as a wicked queen who poisoned her servants and she herself was clubbed to death. This film is the first blockbuster production in recent memory to bring the pop culture eye to ancient Mesopotamia and Babylonia. The treasures and jewelry collection of Puabi’s famous tomb are kept at the British Museum, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the National Museum of Iraq.

A news story about Queen Puabi published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine in September 28, 1930. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, PA.

Photo by Babylon Chronicle

Neolithic Wine Jar from Hasanlu, Iran, c. 6th Millennium BCE

This “Wine Jar” was found at the ancient site of Hasanlu in Hajji Firuz Tepe, North West Iran. It is one of a series of jars found sunken into the floor along an interior wall of a “kitchen” in a well-preserved Neolithic house at Hajji Furuz Tepe. The jar had a capacity of approximately 9 liters (2.5 gallons). It is the oldest known wine storage container in the world. 

The practice of wine-making, or viniculture, can be traced back to the Neolithic period, 7,000 years ago when the first Eurasian grape vines were domesticated for this purpose. Residue analysis of the jar showed that it had contained a resinated wine; wine with terebinth tree or pine resin added as a preservative and medical agent. There was a red to go with the white wine, based on the colors of the residues.

The jar is held in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

My previous post got me asking - who was Louis Shotridge, the Tlingit ethnographer who sat for and signed the photograph?

Well here is his wikipedia.  He was an anthropologist, art collector, photographer, and I think a few other things.  His collecting was not without controversy, like many early anthropologists.  His Tlingit name was Stoowukáa.  His wife Florence (Kaatkwaaxsnéi) was his travel companion and an accomplished artisan.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology host an online archive of his work!  And there is much to go through.  That’s tumblr rabbit-holing for you.

Click above or here for the digital archive. 

The Archaeology of Beer

Dr. Pat McGovern, a biomolecular archeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in Philadelphia, is standing before some large and inscrutable scientific equipment on the museum’s fifth floor as he explains his process to me. “We always start with infrared spectrometry,” he says. “That gives us an idea of what organic materials are preserved.” From there, it’s on to tandem liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry, sometimes coupled with ion cyclotron resonance, and solid-phase micro-extraction gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.

The end result? A beer recipe.

Read more. [Image: Mike Basher]

Nsikpe Dance Crest 

Made in Ejagham, Calabar, Nigeria

20th Century

Located at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 

Credit: Courtesy Penn Museum

Masks like this one originally were used as symbols to unify the diverse groups of the area. During colonial rule the associations controlling the masks were transformed into political organizations that enforced laws and maintained peace. With growing affluence in this oil-producing region the masks came to mark the status and prestige of the wearer. This particular mask has been attributed to the Nsikpe association whose membership was open to anyone able to pay the entry fee. It is on display in the Penn Museum’s African Gallery, which features materials from throughout that vast continent.