University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

GEORGIA IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS YIELDS THE EARLIEST KNOWN EVIDENCE OF GRAPE WINE AND VITICULTURE IN THE WORLD NOVEMBER 2017—The Penn Museum’s new suite of Middle East Galleries doesn’t open until April 2018, but the exhibition interpreters already have to change some of the label text. A famous artifact from the site of Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, previously the earliest chemically confirmed wine jar in the world (dated to about 5400-5000 BCE), has just been supplanted.

Penn Museum archaeologists excavating at the desert site of Abydos, Egypt have discovered the remains of a subterranean pharaonic boat burial dating to the reign of Senwosret III (c. 1850 BCE), according to Dr. Josef Wegner, Penn Museum Associate Curator in the Egyptian section and long-time Project Director of the Abydos excavations.

Ancient DNA Reveals Complex Genetic History of Near East at Dawn of Agriculture *     *     * Study Includes DNA Sample Drawn from 10,000-Year-Old Specimen from the Penn Museum July 25, 2016—The first large-scale, genome-wide analyses of ancient human remains from the Near East have illuminated the genetic identities and population dynamics of the world’s first farmers. The study, published today in Nature, reveals three genetically distinct farming populations living in the Near East at the dawn of agriculture 12,000 to 8,000 years ago: two newly described groups in Iran and the Levant and a previously reported group in Anatolia, in what is now Turkey.

62nd Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale July 11 through 15, 2016 To Be Hosted by University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Museum *     *     * Theme of Philadelphia Conference is Ur in the 21st Century CE PHILADELPHIA, PA 2016—Clay tablets from the ancient Near East, bearing cuneiform, an ancient writing system in use thousands of years ago, were but curiosities until scholars began to decipher them in the mid-19th century. Since then, the decipherment of numerous tablets inscribed by ancient scribes—detailing everything from economic transactions, to literary and religious stories, historical sagas, medical prescriptions and recipes for beer—has opened up a treasure trove of information about some of the earliest human civilizations, the ancient Near Eastern cultures that grew up along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers ages ago.

Ancient Mummies Meet Modern Medicine with "The Anatomy of the Mummy"Special Issue of The Anatomical Record Co-edited by Penn Museum Curator Janet Monge, Publication Follows EarlierPenn Museum Symposium Exploring Range of Techniques to Study Mummies PHILADELPHIA, PA, 2015- Mummies are fascinating to the general public. It turns out they are fascinating to scientists, too. Anthropologists, archaeologists and doctors and researchers in the medical community have been coming together for decades, now, engaging in interdisciplinary exploration of mummies from all over the world. What have they learned? What can modern medical techniques applied to long deceased humans tell us—and what techniques and practices hold the best promise for scholars eager to unwrap more about the human experience in the past?

Penn Museum's Penn Cultural Heritage Center Part of International Consortium Seeking Ways to Take Concrete Action to Preserve Ancient Artifacts March 5, 2015—Syria's renowned Ma'arra Mosaic Museum, significantly damaged and in danger of collapse as a result of the country's long and ongoing civil war, has undergone emergency conservation and protection efforts by Syrian cultural heritage professionals and volunteers. The emergency project, first conceived during a Syrian cultural heritage emergency workshop in the summer of 2014, was a months' long initiative of an international group of organizations: the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project (SHOSI), which is a consortium of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum; the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution; the Geospatial Technologies Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Shawnee State University, The Day After—a Syrian NGO; and the U.S. Institute of Peace. The consortium planned the project, coordinated necessary governmental approvals in the war-torn country, and paid for the materials required to carry out the work with support from the J. M. Kaplan Fund.

Newly Identified Ancient Skeleton from Ur to be Focus of Study,Research For Penn Students Taking a Course at the Penn Museum PHILADELPHIA, February 2015—Penn students in a new course, Living World in Archaeological Science (Anthropology 267/567), offered in the Penn Museum's new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials will be learning about scientific analysis of skeletal remains via a most extraordinary specimen: a very ancient, very rare human skeleton originally from the world famous site of Ur (in modern day Iraq), newly "rediscovered" in the Museum's storage. The students, working with Dr. Janet Monge, Penn Museum professor and Penn Museum Curator of Physical Anthropology, will be learning right along with Museum scholars as they study the skeleton, learn more about how it was excavated, and its place in the ancient history of the Near East.

Newly Discovered Pharaoh at Abydos, Part of Forgotten Egyptian Dynasty,Offers New Answers, More Questions, About Egypt 3,600 Years Ago FEBRUARY 26, 2015—He may have led a king's life, but new forensic evidence gleaned from the remains of Pharaoh Senebkay indicates that the Egyptian ruler died in battle—the earliest known pharaoh to have done so—viciously attacked by multiple assailants. Last year, the tomb of king Senebkay (ca. 1650–1600 BCE) was discovered at the site of Abydos by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Museum working in association with Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities. Now the team led by Dr. Josef Wegner of the Penn Museum has completed a detailed study of Senebkay's skeleton, as well as the remains of several other kings whose tombs have been discovered nearby. The 2014-15 research is supported by the Penn Museum, with additional support from the National Geographic Society Expeditions Council. "Forensic analysis has provided some new answers about the life, and death, of this ancient Egyptian king," noted Dr. Wegner, "while raising a host of new questions about both Senebkay, and the Second Intermediate Period of which he was a part."

High-resolution satellite images reveal the condition of six ancient Syrian sites with major historical and cultural significance REPORT: Four of six major archaeological sites in Syria have been heavily looted and damaged, according to a AAAS analysis of high-resolution satellite images that documents the extent of the destruction. The report analyzes six of the 12 sites that Syria has nominated as World Heritage Sites: Dura Europos, Ebla, Hama’s Waterwheels, Mari, Raqqa, and Ugarit. A forthcoming report will analyze the additional six sites. “As we continue to study the conditions at Syria’s important cultural sites, we have observed significant destruction that is largely the result of conflict. However, unlike our previous analysis of Syria’s World Heritage Sites, we’re seeing a lot of damage that appears to be the result of widespread looting,” said Susan Wolfinbarger, director of the AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project, which authored the report. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center and the Smithsonian Institution also contributed to the research.

NOTE: The Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center is involved in this international effort. REPORT — — In war-torn Syria, five of six World Heritage sites now "exhibit significant damage" and some structures have been "reduced to rubble," according to new high-resolution satellite image analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS analysis, offering the first comprehensive look at the extent of damage to Syria's priceless cultural heritage sites, was completed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) and the Smithsonian Institution, and in cooperation with the Syrian Heritage Task Force. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the analysis provides authoritative confirmation of previous on-the-ground reports of damage to individual sites.

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