The Middle East Galleries at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology re-opened to the public in a grand two-day ceremony held April 21 and 22. The $5 million renovation took three years and is the first part of a massive overhaul to the 130-year-old museum. About 1200 objects are showcased by the new exhibit, half of which have not been previously displayed by the museum. The gallery’s centerpiece is the burial dress of Queen Puabi who ruled the city of Ur in Mesopotamia. The pieces, which include a cape, headdress, and jewelry, date to around 2450 BCE. Other showcased artifacts include a bull-headed lyre, also excavated from Ur, one of the world’s oldest board games, and the world’s oldest known wine vessel, crafted in Iran between 5400-5000 BCE.
Guests to the opening weekend enjoyed a variety of activities. Through a collaboration with the Philadelphia Zoo, visitors could “meet” the animals native to Mesopotamia. Documentaries on the Near East, a dramatic reading of the Epic of Gilgamesh with puppetry and live music, art activities, and other live demonstrations provided visitors to the event with additional layers of engagement with the artifacts.
The museum will open the next of its renovated Signature Galleries, the Mexico and Central America Galleries, in November, 2018.