News and Announcements

  • Phillip Vallentine Tobias: 1925-2012

    On June 7th, 2012, Phillip Vallentine Tobias passed away at the age of 86 after a long illness. Born in South Africa in 1925, Tobias was a renowned expert in the fields of paleoanthropology and  human evolution. He worked with a number of other famous paleoanthropologists including Raymond Dart and Louis Leakey, and helped to expose the Piltdown Man hoax.

    Tobias was a visiting scholar here at Penn for three academic years (1992-93, 1993-94 and 1994-95) and in 1994  the University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Click here for more on Tobias' life, work, and legacy.

  • The Bioarchaeology of Human Sacrifice

    The May 30th issue of Science features an article about how bioanthropological techniques are contributing to our understanding of the practice of human sacrifice. The Penn Museum's own excavations at Ur are featured prominently, as recent analysis of the remains discovered there revealed evidence of trauma, countervailing the excavators' original poisoning theory. The CT scan at left shows one of the analyzed skulls with evidence of trauma.

    The article also ties in to the Maya 2012: Lords of Time exhibit, on now through January 13th here at the Penn Museum. Click here to see Loa Traxler, Maya 2012 curator, discuss human sacrifice among the Maya.

  • Honoring Dr. Sandra Barnes

    SANDRA T. BARNES is professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her research and publications focus on African urbanism, religion, politics, and history.  She is the author of Patrons and Power:  Creating a Political Community in Metropolitan Lagos (1986), for which she received the Amaury Talbot Prize, and Africa's Ogun:  Old World and New (1989 and 2nd expanded edition, 1997).  She is a former president of the African Studies Association, and has served on the Board of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies, the African Studies Association, the Stanford University Humanities Center, and the Foundation for the Advancement of International Medical Education and Research.  She was the founding director of the African Studies Center of the University of Pennsylvania in which capacity she served for 10 years, and co-director of Penn’s multi-school, multi-discipline Africa Health Group.  Barnes is currently serving as the Senior Adviser to the Africa Humanities Program (an ACLS-administered, Carnegie Corporation-funded, fellowship program for African faculty at universities in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, and South Africa, and writing a study of cultural and social pluralism in pre-colonial West Africa.


  • 179 years later, closure at Duffy's cut

    On March 5th, the remains of five Irish immigrant workers left the Penn Museum on their way to their final resting place in Laurel Hill Cemetary. The remains were excavated from a mass grave known as Duffy's Cut, located near Malvern, PA. Though the workers were originally thought to have fallen victim to cholera in 1832, Penn Anthropology Professor Janet Monge and graduate student Samantha Cox found evidence that they were actually executed, possibly out of xenophobia, and fear that they would spread the disease.

    Read more in the Philadelphia Inquirer, or see a video of Dr. Monge speaking about the team's findings here.

  • Sandesara talks tragedy and its aftermath

    Penn Anthropology MD-PhD student Utpal Sandesara, along with co-author Tom Wooten, will be at the Penn Book Center at 5:30pm on Monday, 3/19 to discuss No One Had a Tongue to Speak, their narrative nonfiction account of the 1979 Macchu dam disaster in India, which killed as many as 25,000 people.

    Sandesara's mother survived the disaster, and in 2006 he and Wooten spent 11 weeks in India researching the flood through extensive interviews and archival research.  Adam Hochshild, author of King Leopold's Ghost, calls No One Had a Tongue to Speak "an absorbing story not just about bureaucratic ambition and folly, but about power and powerlessness."

  • NSF and National Geographic Recognize Fernandez-Duque

    Eduardo Fernandez-Duque, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, has been awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society and has been recommended for funding by the National Science Foundation for the study of the first two sets of twins ever born in the owl monkey population of Argentina after more than 250 births recorded over 15 years. Read more here, or on the Owl Monkey Project official website.

    The project was also featured in a several segments for National Geographic Radio and Video and received a recent nod in Science. Click here to listen to the interview with Dr. Fernandez-Duque, or here to see a video segment.

  • Janet Monge & Students Make Discover's Top 100

    Research conducted by Adjunct Professor Janet Monge, along with former undergraduate Jason Lewis and former graduate student Mark Meyer from Penn's Anthropology Department, has been recognised in the February 2012 issue of Discover. Their groundbreaking study of the Morton Collection of skulls, housed here at Penn, uncovered evidence of bias and mismeasure on the part of Stephen Jay Gould in his controversial book The Mismeasure of Man. Their findings were ranked number 59 in Discover's list of the top 100 "experiments, discoveries, and new ideas that changed the world" in 2011.

    See Dr. Monge speak about the Morton Collection here.

  • Jackson Named Editor-in-Chief of New Oxford Online Anthro Project

    Professor John L. Jackson Jr. has been named Editor-in-Chief of Oxford University Press' new and ambitious Oxford Bibliographies project, which attempts to provide scholars, students, and other interested readers with introductions to important topics and themes from many academic fields/disciplines. Anthropology's online module was launched last month, and Oxford was able to put together a strong editorial board for the project, which included scholars from all four of American anthropology’s major sub-fields: archaeology, linguistic anthropology, physical/biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology.

    Read more here, or check out Oxford Bibliographies Online.

  • Honoring the Memory of Dr. Gregory L. Possehl

    On Saturday, March 17th, at 2:00pm, a memorial gathering will be held for Dr. Gregory L. Possehl, Curator Emeritus of the Penn Museum's Asian Section and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology here at Penn. The memorial will take place in the Penn Museum's Rainey Auditorium, and will feature reminisces by friends and colleagues.

    To RSVP, call 215-898-2680, or email

    Read more about Dr. Possehl's life and career here.

  • Indigenous Informants and American Anthropologists

    On January 13th, Dr. Margaret Bruchac of the University of Connecticut gave a talk entitled 'Consorting with Savages: Indigenous Informants and American Anthropologists' as part of the Department's colloquium series. The entire talk can be viewed here. Dr. Bruchac, of Abenaki Indian descent, is a scholar, performer, and historical consultant who specializes in interpretations and representations of northeastern Native American Indian peoples, from the colonial era to the present. For more information about Dr. Bruchac and her work, check out her web profiles through The School for Advanced Research and The University of Connecticut, or her website, here.