Category Archives: Alex F.

A History of Exploration and Discovery—Online

Author: Alex Fleischman

Happy 2013 to all Penn alumni.

With the holiday break still in session and spring classes still on the horizon, I find myself with time to kill. For those in a similar predicament, I recommend taking a look at the Penn Museum’s website for a compelling diversion. In this new year, we also have a new interactive map and timeline of the museum’s 125 years of anthropological and archaeological research.  The timeline combines pictures, stories, and fascinating information in a fun, accessible format. You can view it all here.

Just make sure you don’t spend more time exploring than you intended and consider getting out of the house and taking a drive into campus to check it out in person. In the meantime, here’s a screenshot of what you’ll see.

museum timeline (2)

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Indiana Jones Day at the Penn Museum

Author: Alex Fleischman

Ask my why I’m studying anthropology and I’ll give you a 30-second rundown of a unique, liberal arts perspective that will help me after college even if I don’t become an anthropologist.

What I won’t tell you is what (I think) most anthropology majors don’t admit—I like the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. A lot. And even though most of what we anthropology undergrads study isn’t the archaeological adventures we’ll have one day, I’m pretty sure that’s what all of us hope for.

This Saturday from 1 PM to 4 PM, I get to trade in my normal anthropology classes at the Penn Museum for anthropology that’s a little more exciting, if not a little Hollywood-inspired as well.

The museum is honoring National Archaeology Day with an afternoon of celebrating archaeological and anthropological adventure. Indiana Jones Day will feature mummies, a scavenger hunt, and an interactive dig site, among many other fun activities. The event is free with Museum admission. In addition, visitors wearing an Indiana Jones-style fedora receive $2 off the price of admission!

Even more exciting for an anthropology major, National Geographic’s Dr. Fredrik Hiebert will speak about being a real archaeologist and exploring the world.

There’s more information online here.


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Philly Fringe

Author: Alex Fleischman

Throughout its history, the Penn Museum’s Warden Garden has had a surprising variety of residents—from the pond’s fish to the Sphinx, which now lives indoors, before Philly’s weather was deemed a threat, and once, even, a submarine used for underwater archaeology. Next month, “monsters” can be added to the list, when the Museum will host two Philly Fringe programs.

First, and unrelated to any monsters, the Underground Shakespeare Company, a Penn student theater troupe, will perform “Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives,” Thursday through Saturday, September 13-15. Shakespeare’s play is adapted to the modern, turbulent events of contemporary Egypt, with the Museum’s Sphinx as the dramatic backdrop to their performance. I can’t wait to witness the always dramatic and impressive gallery transformed by the talents of Shakespeare and the performers.

On Sunday, September 16, the artist Douglas Repetto will lead a Monsters: A Workshop and Happening. The audience will help him make “foals”—small walking tables made with simple mechanical parts and scrap wood. The “herd” of them will be let loose in the Chinese Rotunda at 4 p.m.; afterward, they will led outdoors and into the Warden Garden. After the event, the foals are “up for adoption” for audience members—this sounds like a pet even a college student could handle, so I’m not going to miss out.

The 16th-annual Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe takes place from September 7–22, 2012, with theater, music, and arts events all over Philadelphia. In addition to the two events at the Museum, two more will take place on Penn’s campus. On September 20 and 21, the Annenberg Center will host “red, black & GREEN: a blues,” an interactive program created by Marc Bamuthi Joseph of The Living Word Project. On September 22, the Platt Student Performing Arts House will host The Alternative Theatre Festival by iNtuitions Experimental Theatre.


More information about the events at the Museum can be found here and more information about Live Arts and Philly Fringe can be found here.


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The Penn Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art Exchange Prisoners

Author: Alex Fleischman, C’14

His stone face was larger than I’d imagined. His body lay flatter against the ground, and his pose and expression seemed more somber.

That was my first impression of the bowing prisoner as I stood before him today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Upon arriving at the museum, I sought out this object in “The Dawn of Egyptian Art,” a special exhibition open until August 5, although he doesn’t normally reside in the Met, but instead much closer to home—at the Penn Museum.

In fact, this object, a door socket carved to resemble a captive, was exchanged for another Egyptian prisoner—a statue that is currently on display in the Penn Museum’s Upper Egyptian Gallery.

The Met’s prisoner kneels, arms clearly bound behind him, his face partially damaged in what may have been a ritual act of destruction. The statue dates to Dynasty 6 of the Old Kingdom and was made during the reign of Pepi II (ca. 2246-2152 BCE). The Penn Museum’s door socket is older, dating to the first or second Egyptian dynasties—between 3000 and 2675 BCE.

Nevertheless, both prisoners seem to evoke regret, elicit sympathy, and ultimately, inspire fear for their captors—the aim of the Egyptian pharaohs who ordered their creation.

There’s more information on the Penn Museum’s website here.  You can also find a New York Times review of the exhibition with photo of the door socket here.  Enjoy!

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MAYA 2012: Lords of Time at the Penn Museum

Author: Alex F., C’14

Finals aren’t the only end of the world this semester. Nestled between a French literature paper and a linguistics exam, MAYA 2012: Lords of Time will open at the Penn Museum on May 5th.

The new exhibition delves into the predictions of a 2012 apocalypse and their origins in Maya civilization. With over 150 objects, the exhibition combines the predicted end of the world we’ve read about in the media with what archaeologists and anthropologists truly know of this remarkable ancient civilization.

Many of the objects will be artifacts from Copan only recently excavated by Penn Museum archaeologists. As a high school student, I visited the Copan ruins in Honduras on a spring break trip, without any idea that excavations might be going on. Now, as a Penn student reading about archaeologists finding vessels and jewelry deep under the Copan pyramids, it’s impossible not to imagine some of my anthropology professors in Indiana Jones-like scenarios, trapped in ancient tombs and narrowly escaping dangerous predicaments.

And while I can’t say I’m looking forward to finals, I am excited about the opening weekend’s celebrations. What’s a better study break than an exciting new exhibition, music, arts, and a ribbon-cutting with the president of Honduras?

There’s more information on the Penn Museum’s MAYA 2012 site here:

(Photos courtesy of Kenneth Garrett).

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Penn Museum’s ‘Imagine Africa,’ Reinterpreted in Hip Hop

Author: Alex Fleishman, C’14

Recently, the title of an event at the Penn Museum caught my eye: Hip Hop Artists Imagine Africa. Maybe it grabbed my attention because I hadn’t expected it, and maybe that’s that why I read on that six hip hop artists would be performing at the Penn Museum on Wednesday. Their visit is in conjunction with the Imagine Africa exhibits, one of my favorites currently at the museum. Needless to say, I kept reading.

What was next was unexpected, again. This isn’t the artists’ first visit—they came in January, and the music they will bring on Wednesday will be their original responses to the exhibit. I decided it was time to check out the artists: they’re local, and I wasn’t familiar with their music.

Darian the Great, one of the artists, has already released a song about Imagine Africa called “Foundation of Imagination.” The first line: “You ever seen something, you know, that just really spoke to your soul? I mean really inspired you, made you really take the time to think, think about who you are.” Listening on, I learn that he’s talking about the Penn Museum, which he actually mentions in the song, even along with the sphinx in one of the galleries. Ultimately, though, he raps about learning history and respecting tradition, a topic I decide I like very much.

I have a pretty busy schedule next week, with midterms, homework, etc., but I don’t think I’ll be able to miss this. A free concert that’s in the same building as my classes that day? Yes, please.

There’s more information on the Penn Museum’s online calendar here.

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