An unconventional convention helped kick off this year's Anthropologists in the Making Summer Camp at the Penn Museum. On Friday, June 27, more than 30 campers ages 7-13 hosted their parents for a Tattoo and Body Adornment Convention, inspired by the week's theme of Worn and Adorn.
Campers demonstrated ancient Maya body modifications, modeled wearables to represent supernatural identities, explained drop ear gauges, and imitated scarification, then "tattooed" their parents' with paint to share their newfound knowledge.
The Worn and Adorn theme recognizes that people around the world have been piercing, tattooing, painting, and adorning their bodies for centuries. Even now, World Cup fans are painting their faces in the colors of their favorite teams. This group of campers explored the personal and cultural meanings behind body modification through hands-on activities such as creating masks imitating African scarification patterns. Gallery talks explained the significance of that ritual, as well as ear gauges and flares, Native American regalia, and the ancient Maya tradition of binding an infant's head to convey a family's social status.
Similarly, the campers tattooed their parents with their own group designs to show group affiliations.
Earlier in the week, the campers also joined Dr. Jane Hickman, Editor of the Museum's Expedition magazine, and Stephanie Mach, Collections Assistant, for a behind-the-scenes tour of jewelry and related artifacts in the Museum's collections. In addition to her duties at the Museum, Dr. Hickman, who earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Penn in 2008, has studied jewelry from Greece, Turkey, and Afghanistan. Besides ancient Panamanian ornaments made of gold, she showed them a hat made of bird bodies from Alaska, a necklace of human and pig teeth from Africa, and her favorite object, a fighting cap from Borneo made of orangutan hair, goat hair, leopard teeth, shell, feathers, and other materials.
"Here is the goat hair," said Dr. Hickman, pointing at a tuft of hair on the helmet.
"It looks like a face," replied a camper. "And it's missing an eye!"
Celebrating over ten years of engaging children with summer fun and learning through the Penn Museum's world-renowned collections, the Anthropologists in the Making Summer Camp adopts a different theme each week. Over the next eight weeks, campers ages 7-13 will explore themes such as Gift of the Nile, Digging China, When in Rome, World Mythology, Heroes, Giants, and Monsters, Ancient Egyptian Magic, and Way of the Warrior. Each week's includes a special parents' event for the campers to show off what they've learned. Registration is closed for this summer's camp. Registration opens in February for next summer's camp.
Click here to be notified when registration opens for next year's Anthropologists in the Making Summer Camp.
Photos (top to bottom): A camper paints a tattoo to demonstrate what she learned at the Penn Museum's Anthropologists in the Making summer program (Photo: Penn Museum). Penn Museum summer campers hosted a "tattoo convention" to show parents all they learned about ancient body modifications from around the world (Photo: Penn Museum). Dr. Hickman shows an image of ancient Panamanian adornment to young campers attending the Penn Museum's Anthropologists in the Making summer program (Photo: Penn Museum). Collections Assistant Stephanie Mach gives one camper a close-up view of a fighting cap from Borneo during the Worn and Adorn themed week of the Anthropologists in the Making summer camp at the Penn Museum (Photo: Penn Museum). Anthropologists in the Making summer campers try to guess an adornment object from the Museum's collections with clues from Collections Assistant Stephanie Mach (Photo: Penn Museum).