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Egyptomania! Takes Over the Penn Museum - Saturday, March 19, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

PHILADELPHIA, PA 2016—Mummification workshops, ancient Egyptian hieroglyph classes, an “Animals of Egypt” guided family tour, presentations by Egyptologists, archaeologists and archivists, Egyptian belly dancing, game and craft stations with distinctly ancient Egyptian themes—it’s all part of Egyptomania!—and it takes over the Penn Museum Saturday March 19, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Egyptomania! takes place in and around the Museum’s world-renowned ancient Egyptian galleries, featuring monumental elements of an ancient Egyptian palace, a 13-ton Sphinx, and art and artifacts representing 5,000 years of Egyptian culture. The celebration is free with General Museum Admission ($15, general admission; $13, seniors [65+]; $10, children [6-17] and full-time students [with ID]; $2 ACCESS Card holders; free to children under 5, members, active U.S. Military, STAMP and PennCard holders).


One of the Penn Museum’s most beloved artifacts—an ancient Egyptian Sphinx that weighs in at about 13 tons—recently received the special attention of Josef Wegner and Jennifer Houser Wegner, long-time Associate Curators in the Museum’s Egyptian section, when they co-authored a new book, The Sphinx That Traveled to Philadelphia: The Story of the Colossal Sphinx in the Penn Museum. Written to celebrate the centennial of the arrival of the Museum’s massive granite Sphinx in 1913, the narrative of The Sphinx that Traveled to Philadelphia covers the original excavations and archaeological history of the Sphinx, how it came to Philadelphia, and the unexpected ways in which the Sphinx's story intersects with the history of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Museum just before World War I. The authors will share stories from the book at a 1:00 pm talk, in front of the Sphinx. The Sphinx That Traveled to Philadelphia, published by the Penn Museum and distributed by the University of Pennsylvania Press, is available for purchase in the Penn Museum shop. A book signing follows the presentation.


At Egyptomania!, guests are invited to become mummification experts, with Mummy Makers workshops are offered at 11:30 am and 2:00 pm. These science-rich experiences, drawn from the Museum’s popular “Unpacking the Past” programs for Philadelphia middle school students, invite participants to assist Museum educators as they move through the mummification process on a custom-made dummy mummy. Activities include brain removal, evisceration, desiccation, and the weighing of the heart ceremony.

Ancient Egyptians had a high regard for cats, and mummified many animals including cats, birds, dogs, and crocodiles. An “Animals of Egypt” guided family tour departs at 12:00 pm, winding through the Egyptian galleries to find animals that were highly revered in ancient Egypt.

Guests are invited to learn how to read and write ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs during workshop at 1:30 pm and again at 3:30 pm. Both sessions explore the distinctive script that ancient Egyptians used for nearly 4,000 years, inscribed on papyrus, carved in stone, on tomb and temple walls, and used to decorate objects for daily life. The 1799 discovery of the Rosetta Stone finally offered a key to the modern understanding of this script.

Belly dancer and dance scholar Habiba showcases folkloric Egyptian dances at 2:30 pm. Her repertoire includes the Raks al Assaya (Cane Dance) from Upper Egypt and Ballass Dance (Water Jug Dance) from the Nile delta.

At 11:00 am and 2:45 pm, Egyptomania! guests can test their knowledge about Sekhmet, Horus, Bastet, and other Egyptian deities in a “Name that God” game.

Throughout the afternoon, visitors may stop by at a craft station to create mummies and wesekh necklaces to take home. The wesekh is an ancient Egyptian collar necklace worn by men, women, and mummies alike. Children can also crawl through a simulated Egyptian tomb, and participate in a scavenger hunt.


In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies is an exhibition and laboratory that invites guests to observe conservators as they clean, restore, and preserve ancient funerary objects and mummies. Between 12:30-1:00 pm and 3:30-4:00 pm, the conservators open their lab window to answer visitors’ questions about their work. The lab maintains a blog to keep visitors updated on their work, including the crocodile mummy and a falcon mummy currently in the lab.

Senior Archivist Alex Pezzati takes Egyptomania! guests on a trip back in time to some of the Museum’s early Egyptian excavations in the Penn Museum Archives during a 1:30 pm “Unearthed in the Archives” talk. The informal chat provides a behind-the-scenes perspective to the Museum’s research, based on expedition records, vintage photographs, manuscripts, personal letters, and much more.

The American Research Center in Egypt, Pennsylvania Chapter, joins in the celebration by waiving admission to its Annual Korsyn Lecture at 3:30 pm. Andrew Oliver, art historian and former director of the Museum Program at the National Endowment for the Arts, presents “American Travellers on the Nile: Early US Visitors in Egypt, 1774-1839,” a discussion of the factors which made Egypt a relatively easy and safe country for travelers of all nationalities after the War of 1812.


There are more than 42,000 artifacts in the Penn Museum’s Egyptian Section, one of the largest collections of Egyptian and Nubian material in the United States, featuring material that spans an extraordinary 5,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. A 15-ton sphinx, the largest in the Western Hemisphere, and monumental architectural elements from the 1200 BCE palace of the Pharaoh Merenptah, grace the Egypt (Sphinx) Gallery. The Museum’s finest examples of Egyptian sculpture are exhibited in the third floor Egypt Gallery. The material on display, including carved relief, stone coffins, and exquisite three-dimensional sculpture, testifies to the superb craftsmanship of Egyptian artists and sculptors throughout Egypt’s long history. A side exhibition, Amarna: Ancient Egypt’s Place in the Sun, offers an exploration of the metoric rise and fall of the boyhood home of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Event Schedule and Information


The Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.

The Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn's campus, across from Franklin Field). Public transportation to the Museum is available via SEPTA's Regional Rail Line at University City Station; the Market-Frankford Subway Line at 34th Street Station; trolley routes 11, 13, 34, and 36; and bus routes 21, 30, 40, and 42. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and first Wednesdays of each month until 8:00 pm, with P.M. @ PENN MUSEUM evening programs offered. Closed Mondays and holidays. Admission donation is $15 for adults; $13 for senior citizens (65 and above); free for U.S. Military; $10 for children and full-time students with ID; free to Members, PennCard holders, and children 5 and younger. For the special exhibition The Golden Age of King Midas, there is an additional $5/person charge (Free for Penn Museum Members, PennCard holders and children under 6).

Hot and cold meals and light refreshments are offered to visitors with or without Museum admission in The Pepper Mill Café; the Museum Shop offers a wide selection of gifts, books, games, clothing and jewelry. Penn Museum can be found on the web at For general information call 215.898.4000. For group tour information call 215.746.8183.


Jill DiSanto, Public Relations Director