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Spotlight Gallery

Commemorating the Ancient Olympics

Included with General Admission
Main Level

As the world celebrates the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the Penn Museum commemorates the ancient Olympics with an artifact in a league of its own.

A lekythos showing two racing runners. Lekythos (oil flask); Excavated from Narce, Italy; Likely made in Euboea, Greece; ca. 550 BCE; MS739.

Now On View

As a way to honor the god Zeus, the first Olympic games in ancient Greece featured a stadion, or footrace, similar to one depicted on a Greek vessel more than 2,500 years ago. That vessel—a lekythos (oil flask) dating back to 550 BCE—is now on view in the Spotlight Gallery, a 360-degree viewing space.

The lekythos was probably created on the island of Euboea in southeastern Greece and was excavated from a tomb in Narce, Italy (about an hour north of Rome). It even inspired a U.S. postage stamp in 2004 to honor the Olympic Games’ return to Greece.

The Spotlight Gallery is adjacent to the 25,000-pound solid red granite Sphinx of the Pharaoh Ramses II, located in the Museum’s Main Entrance.

Watch this video produced by NBC10 for a sneak peek of ancient games depicted in artifacts on display in our Greece Gallery.