Crossroads of Cultures

The Penn Museum’s new Eastern Mediterranean gallery

The Eastern Mediterranean Gallery is showcasing an exhibit titles Crossroads of Culture.

The Eastern Mediterranean Gallery, Eric Sucar, University of Pennsylvania

The Penn Museum
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Eastern Mediterranean Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia (commonly known as the Penn Museum) opened in November 2022.

Titled Crossroads of Cultures, this new permanent exhibit explores the eastern Mediterranean as a hub of ideas, art, and technologies, covering the geographic area of modern Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, and Cyprus. Its ambitious scope spans from the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000 BCE) to the late Ottoman period (c. 1900 CE), highlighting connections between the region’s past and the contemporary world.

The exhibit presents some 400 artifacts arranged around three major themes: coexistence and connection, creativity and change, and power and conflict. It makes use of interactive, multi-sensory elements, such as animated reconstructions, replicas to touch, and burning incense to smell. Thanks to the museum’s rich history of archaeological work in the region, the exhibit also showcases Penn’s excavations, including stories of local laborers, whose vital role has been historically overlooked.

Exemplifying the multi-layered history of the eastern Mediterranean, the entrance to the gallery presents visitors with an Egyptian stela of Ramesses II (13th century BCE), found in 1923 during the museum’s excavations at Beth Shean in Mandate Palestine. The two Corinthian capitals from the same site were originally made for the Roman temple of Zeus but later reused in a Byzantine church built over the ruins of the temple in the fifth century.

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