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History of the World in 1,000 Objects? The Penn Museum's collections help tell the story of humankind
“Ram Caught in a Thicket” of gold, lapis lazuli, copper, shell, red limestone, and bitumen, ca. 2600-2500 BCE, found at the Royal Cemetery at Ur. Photo: Dorling Kindersley: Penn Museum.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- When Publisher DK, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, decided to create a book that offers a unique look at world history through the visual presentation of human-made artifacts, they contacted the Penn Museum in Philadelphia about the possibility of exploring the collections and possibly taking a number of object photos for the new book.

The gloriously illustrated full-color book—History of the World in 1,000 Objects—published last month, is out, and the numbers are in: more than 200 objects in the book, roughly 20%, come from the Penn Museum’s world-renowned international collections.

“We are delighted to have contributed such a significant amount to this rich new compendium of art and artifacts that speaks to the history of humanity and human achievement—but we aren’t surprised that our Collection would lend itself to such a volume,” said Julian Siggers, Ph.D., Williams Director of the Penn Museum. “Visitors to the Penn Museum know that this is a place where people can travel, through time and across continents, to discover the world anew. “

After the initial contact with the Penn Museum, DK staff worked closely with Penn Museum staff from its Registrar’s Office and eight Curatorial Sections: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Babylonia, Egypt, the Mediterranean World, the Near East, and Oceania. During a two-week period in February, about 300 objects were photographed for possible inclusion in the book.

Visitors to the Penn Museum will recognize many of the objects in the 480-page oversized hardcover book, as more than 100 of the objects selected are currently on display. Chief among them are the world-renowned Bull-headed lyre (which appears on the book’s title page) and the "Ram Caught in a Thicket" (both from the ancient site of Ur in modern-day Iraq), the Sphinx of Ramesses II from Memphis, Egypt (the largest Sphinx in the Western Hemisphere), an ancient Etruscan crested helmet, a white marble Venus sculpture attributed to the Greek sculptor Benghazi, a ceremonial greenstone yolk used in Mesoamerican ball games, elaborately carved, brass-cast Benin “bronzes” from West Africa, and a Lakota-Sioux war bonnet from the American Great Plains.

History of the World in 1,000 Objects (Hardcover/480 pages/$50.00) is available for purchase in the Penn Museum Shop beginning in December. Museum members receive 10% off all shop purchases.

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