Penn Museum's 2012 Prediction?
(Don't Stop Payments on Your Life Insurance Just Yet)
Prognostications for the year 2012 are piling up, with multiple books, magazine articles, and now a blockbuster movie (2012, in theaters November 13, 2009), all concerned with the topic. What is said is intriguing, and for some genuinely worrying, but how much of it has a basis in ancient Maya culture and belief? Specifically, did the Maya really predict that the world will end on December 21, 2012?
"Not at all," says Simon Martin, Associate Curator, American Section at the University of Pennsyvlania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. A specialist in ancient Maya writing, he explains that this is simply the end date of one long cycle of time, and the beginning of another one. "The Maya made calculations spanning millions of years and the 5,200-year cycle that ends in 2012 is a rather short one. The date itself is mentioned only once in all the many thousands of Maya inscriptions, where it is used as an arbitrary anchor date for the matters under discussion and not associated with any particular prophesy. We know that the Maya believed in a world after 2012 since they mention events set well beyond this, with an inscription at Palenque, Mexico, describing one in the year 4772."
"Just remember," says Elin Danien, curator of the Museum's exhibition Painted Metaphors: Pottery and Politics of the Ancient Maya, "all calendars have arbitrary starting dates, created by different cultures to allow them to measure the passage of time in particular ways.
"The predictions of global calamity may be said to originate in deep antiquity, but they really stem from the troubles and anxieties of our own time. What is truly remarkable about the Maya," says Dr. Danien, "was their ability to create accurate calendars, and use a unique writing system to record their history, cosmology, and the events that shaped their world.
"Their real accomplishments can be seen at the Penn Museum, in objects displayed in the Central American Gallery and in Painted Metaphors. We don't have to create fantasies about them. They were an extraordinary people who developed a unique civilization that still fascinates the modern world."
Caption: Visitors at Painted Metaphors exhibition.
Now you can help the Penn Museum care for its Collections and get a great gift at the same time with our newly launched Adopt an Artifact Program. Just in time for the holidays! Penn Museum invites visitors to explore the wonders of history and culture from civilizations around the world through an extraordinary collection of nearly one million artifacts – objects created by humans for every day or sacred use. Just one percent of these artifacts are on public display at any one time, but the rest still need proper housing and care. Now you can help the Penn Museum to properly care for all the artifacts in its collection by “adopting” one of your own favorites. All funds raised from adoptions will support the preservation, storage, and management of our artifacts.
Just launched! A new online exhibit for Iraq's Ancient Past: Rediscovering Ur’s Royal Cemetery.
The material from the 1922-1934 excavation of ancient Ur, located in southern Iraq near present-day Nasiriyah, is perhaps the most important material in the Penn Museum’s collection. The location itself, Biblical Ur of the Chaldees, birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham, holds tremendous importance, while the excavation marked one of the most important archaeological finds to date. The exhibition and its website shed light on these objects, as well as the understanding of archaeological practices from the past and the present, and the issues of cultural preservation in Iraq.
The exhibit tells the story of the remarkable excavation at Ur, and the finding of the Royal Cemetery including the thoughts and theories of Sir Leonard Woolley, who was the head of the excavation for its 12 seasons. Visitors also get a glimpse of the culture of the Sumerian people who created the elaborate cemetery structure more than 4000 years ago. The exhibit presents some modern findings, theories, and insights that have come to light on the objects since their original excavation. Finally, the exhibit will discuss some of the issues of cultural preservation in Iraq, both during the time of the excavation and now.
The Ban Chiang Project is dedicated to pursuing scientific research on the prehistoric culture revealed by the excavations at the site of Ban Chiang and neighboring sites in northern northeast Thailand. The investigations are being conducted by a multinational, multidisciplinary team of scholars. Work on Ban Chiang at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is now focused both on bringing to full publication the excavation undertaken in the 1970s and expanding our knowledge of the prehistory of the Middle Mekong River Basin by survey and excavation in Laos.
Wednesday, 6:00 pm
Great Discoveries Lecture Series
China's First Emperor: Man and the Empire for all Eternity
Nancy S. Steinhardt, Curator, Asian Section, examines the funerary world of the First Emperor of China, who in death broke with the millennial-old precedent of sacrificial burial and instead had thousands of life-size clay warriors accompany him into the afterlife. A gallery tour and light refreshments follow. This program is part of a monthly Great Discovery Lecture Series running through June 2010. $5 in advance; $10 at the door; Free for Penn Museum members. Information: (215) 898-4890.
Saturday, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
World Culture Family Day: Chinese New Year Celebration
Welcome in the Year of the Tiger at the 29th annual day-long extravaganza celebration. Bring the whole family and celebrate the New Year through a wide variety of music and dance performances, children's activities, storytelling, arts and crafts, and martial and healing arts workshops. The day ends with a drum roll, a roar, and the popular Lion Dance parade. Free with Museum admission donation. Museum-wide. Information: (215) 898-4890.
His Golden Touch: The Gordion Drawings of Piet de Jong
26 September 2009 through 10 January 2010
One of the great archaeological illustrators of the 20th century, Piet de Jong (1887-1967) was invited, in 1957, to the site of Gordion in central Turkey, where the Penn Museum had been conducting excavations since 1950. He prepared drawings of artifacts as well as a series of watercolors that reconstruct the remarkable wall paintings in the so-called Painted House, ca. 500 BCE. It was an extraordinary season at the site, highlighted by the excavation of a large grave mound known as Tumulus MM (the “Midas Mound” for its association with the legendary King Midas or his family), which provided a wealth of information about the Phrygians in the eighth century BCE. His Golden Touch features more than 40 original drawings and watercolors by de Jong, as well as a selection of objects from the Museum’s excavations at Gordion, reproductions of several artifacts from tombs at the site, and excerpts from two rare color films made at the site in the 1950s. Ann Blair Brownlee, Associate Curator in the Mediterranean Section, and Alessandro Pezzati, the Museum’s Senior Archivist, are co-curators of the exhibition, with the assistance of Peter Cobb and Colleen Kron, graduate students in Penn’s Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World program, and Gareth Darbyshire, Gordion Archivist. The exhibition is sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Foundation and an anonymous donor. The Merle-Smith Gallery.
Find out what actually goes on at a dig. Follow the progress of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project as Dr. David Romano and his team of researchers work at the Sanctuary of Zeus during field season 2009.
One of the most famous Pan-Hellenic sanctuaries of ancient Greece, located only 17 miles from its more well-known neighbor at Olympia, Mt. Lykaion claims a spectacular mountain-top location. Find out what the researchers do in the trenches as they work to uncover, conserve, document, illustrate and register objects.