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Physical Anthropology Section

Update on the Morton Collection

The Penn Museum is relocating to storage the part of the Morton Collection that has been located in a classroom within its Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM Classroom 190), before the end of July.

In addition, the Museum is actively working towards repatriation or reburial of the crania of enslaved individuals within this Collection. Given that not much is known about these individuals other than that they came to Morton from Cuba, we are committed to working through this important process with heritage community stakeholders in an ethical and respectful manner.

As progress is made, updates will continue.

The Physical Anthropology Section curates extensive skeletal human and primate collections from all around the world. In total, approximately 10,000 individuals in various states of preservation with both historic and archaeological materials.

Collection History

The most extensive historic collection is the Samuel Morton collection of over 1500 human crania amassed in the middle of the 19th Century.

Two large skeletal collections, both from Iran, form the core of the collection: Tepe Hissar (excavated in 1931 by Erich Schmidt) and Hasanlu (excavated from 1957 to 1977 under the leadership of Robert Dyson). Both collections contain over 250 well preserved skeletons each.

In 2002, the Penn Museum began to develop a large CT scan database of the collections funded by the National Science Foundation - PI Thomas Schoenemann and co-PI Janet Monge; award number: 0447271. Over 3000 skeletal elements (mostly crania) have been CT scanned to date.

See a short review of the history of the collection

See a complete database listing

Read about the Morton Cranial Collection