Year of Water

Special Display
Through July 2011

Long before the Bible, the story of a "Great Flood" was written on clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia, in what is now modern-day Iraq. Penn Museum features an exceptional collection of ancient Mesopotamian artifacts and some of the world's earliest literature on clay tablets in this two case display. The sustaining and destroying powers of water in the region that some have called the "cradle of civilization" is considered. The objects on display include what is perhaps the most famous of the Sumerian "Flood Tablets," featuring the story of King Ziusudra who builds a boat to save his family from a great flood. Trescher Entrance.

 Yea of WaterFind out more at www.yearofwater.orgWater as Creator
In the "Water as Creator" display features objects from Iraq as old as 2600 BCE. The "Fish Rhyton" in the center is a terracotta drinking vessel from the Parthian Period (ca. 100–200 CE).

Water as Creator
Water has shaped civilization for thousands of years. The earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia depended on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for water, food, and trade. The impact of water on their daily lives can be seen in the artifacts they left behind. These objects frequently depict water scenes and aquatic life. Ancient myths speak of gods who commanded the power of water to create as well as destroy life. The Sumerian god Enki filled the riverbeds with water bringing life to the land. He also saved humanity from destruction in a great flood.

The Infamous Flood Mud
Sample from Flood Deposit, Clay and Stone, Late Ubaid Period (ca. 5000–4000 BCE), Iraq, Ur, Penn Museum Object 31-17-171.

Water as Destroyer
While water can sustain life, it can also be a terrifying force of destruction. Memories of ancient floods in Mesopotamia were preserved in both myths and historical records. Early Sumerian clay tablets tell the story of a great flood brought on by the gods to destroy life on earth. The god Enki saves humanity by ordering the construction of a large boat, which survives the deluge allowing its passengers to repopulate the earth. This great flood was later woven into the story of the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh and eventually into the more familiar Jewish, Christian, and Islamic texts as the story of Noah.

Self-Guided Gallery Tour
Visitors can pick up the self-guided gallery tour at the Museum's entrances, and explore some of the art and artifacts relating to water that are found throughout the galleries.


Water in the Ancient World
Fall Afternoon Symposium
Saturday, October 2, 1:00 to 4:30 pm
pyramidAs we face mounting water management challenges in our world today, it is worthwhile to look back and consider the challenges of water management in ancient times. Penn Museum scholars and invited specialists dive in, exploring the myths around and evidence for the Great Flood, the engineering marvels of Roman and Indus civilizations, and the watery landscapes of Amazonia and Mesoamerica. The program includes National Geographic Society archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, whose underwater research with Robert Ballard in the Black Sea identified the remains of ancient floods, and Vernon Scarborough from the University of Cincinnati, who discusses how sustainable water use by ancient civilizations can provide models for our current response to global climate change.

Free with Museum admissiondonation which can be given at the door. Optional reception ($10 fee) follows. Reservations requested.


Water Quizzo
Wednesday, November 10, 6:00 pm
As part of the Museum's P.M. @ PENN MUSEUM Wednesday evening program, guests are invited to compete at a Year of Water Quizzo event hosted by Quiztine.

Water in Contemporary Societies around the World
Spring Afternoon Symposium
Sunday, April 10, 1:00 to 4:30 pm
From the efforts to protect our Delaware River, to the challenge of water privatization in Latin America, to global water policies and their impact on Africa, this wide-reaching program explores ongoing issues that cultures, nations and whole continents of people are grappling with today. Details to be posted online by December 2010.


3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-4000


Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
First Wednesdays: 10:00am - 8:00pm
Monday: CLOSED


Sign up for our e-newsletter

Trip Advisor
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology | Penn Logo
3260 South Street | Philadelphia, PA 19104 | (215) 898-4000 | Contacts

With Art Philadelphia