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New Middle East Galleries at Penn Museum

By: | posted on: Jul 19, 2018

Date(s) - 07/19/2018
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

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New Middle East Galleries featuring 10,000 years of human history

The 4,500-year-old crowning jewelry of a Mesopotamian queen. One of the world’s oldest wine vessels. A baby’s rattle. A school child’s first writing primer. A workman’s tool. An ancient spreadsheet. Through these fascinating objects and over 1,200 more, the Penn Museum’s new Middle East Galleries take you on a journey, exploring how ancient Mesopotamian societies gave rise to the world’s first cities—cities not so different from our own.

The Middle East Galleries will be located directly adjacent to the Main Entrance Hall.

Series: Making the Middle East Galleries

The Middle East Galleries are the first in a series of transformative gallery renovations taking place at the Penn Museum over the next several years. Learn more about the Penn Museum’s Building Transformation.

Gallery Highlights

Clay Brick, Ur, Iraq.
Museum Object Number: B16460
Wine Jar, Hajji Firuz, Iran.
Museum Object Number: 69-12-15
Gaming Board, Ur, Iraq.
Museum Object Number: B16742


The Middle East Galleries tell a story common to all humanity. Ten thousand years ago, in the fertile crescent of the Middle East, the most transformative point in our human history was set in motion: the domestication of plants and animals prompted the shift from hunting and gathering to farming, establishing the first settled societies. Villages developed, then towns, then cities. Writing and mathematics developed for record keeping. Following a central theme of the “Journey to the City,” the Middle East Galleries vividly illustrate how the first settlements led to the first cities, and how our modern urbanized world can be traced to developments in ancient Mesopotamian societies.

The story of the ancient Middle East is one that the Penn Museum can tell uniquely well: the Museum was founded in 1887 to house artifacts from its first expedition to Nippur, the first American-led archaeological project in the region. Since then, the Museum has excavated an unparalleled constellation of sites in the Middle East, where active research continues today. The Middle East Galleries will highlight the Museum’s pioneering research, with updates as we make new discoveries each year. 95% of the material on display in the Middle East Galleries was excavated by Penn archaeologists, including world-renowned objects like the “Ram in the Thicket,” and the Galleries explore how archaeologists found and interpreted such fascinating artifacts.

Slipper Coffin, Nippur, Iraq
Museum Object Number: B9220

The Penn Museum’s new Middle East Galleries are made possible with lead support from the Selz Foundation and the William B. Dietrich Foundation, and support from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and the Coby Foundation.

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