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An Immersive Look at Mesopotamia at the 5th Grade’s Annual Meso Day

The Class of 2028 took an in-depth and hands-on look at the ancient past with scholars from the Penn Museum, the Freie Universität Berlin, and Dalton.
Students began Dalton’s first ever virtual Meso Day with a keynote presentation from Dr. Janet Monge, the keeper and curator of the physical anthropology section at the Penn Museum. In her presentation, Dr. Monge shared her expertise about the Royal Cemetery at Ur, a famous archaeological site located in modern day Iraq, by highlighting stories to help students understand how archaeology and skeletal analysis can offer historians a better understanding of ancient cultures.

Following Dr. Monge’s presentation, students rotated between two interactive workshops. In one workshop, students joined Penn Museum scholars to learn about cuneiform, a writing system dating back to 3100 BCE used in Sumerian and Akkadian languages. Students used the session to become royal scribes by practicing writing cuneiform on tablets they created from clay materials at home.

The other workshop focused on ancient illness, medicine, and magic. During the session, an Assyriologist from the Freie Universität Berlin explained how Mesopotamians believed that demons caused disease and how ancient healers would follow medicinal recipes and recite incantations to the gods. Students finished the workshop by becoming a Mesopotamian doctor and mixing ingredients together to create their own ancient poultices.

In the final session of the day, Paul Zimmerman of Dalton's New Lab, and an archaeologist himself, introduced the students to some of the techniques and challenges of building and excavating ancient mud-brick architecture in Iraq.

A special thanks to Dalton’s Museum Program, Library staff, and 5th Grade House Advisors for organizing a wonderful virtual event!
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