Semitic Museum

The Semitic Museum, founded in 1889, is home to Harvard's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and to the University's collections of Near Eastern archaeological artifacts. These collections comprise over 40,000 items, including pottery, cylinder seals, sculpture, coins and cuneiform tablets. Most are from museum-sponsored excavations in Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus and Tunisia. The Museum is dedicated to the use of these collections for teaching, research and publica tion of Near Eastern archaeology, history and culture.

Exhibition and Education

The Museum, through the collaborative efforts of departmental faculty, curators, museum curatorial staff and students, mounts exhibits, often in conjunction with university courses, which not only serve the University community, but also attract the gene ral public. The Museum has an active public outreach program featuring tours for school groups and teacher training workshops. Through these educational efforts, the Museum seeks to promote a wider understanding of the civilizations of the Near East and their great cultural legacies.

Research and Publication

The Semitic Museum sponsors archaeological field research into the complex societies of the Near East, with special emphasis on those ancient cultures related to the world of the Bible. Each year more than 100 staff, students and volunteers participate in the Ashkelon Excavations (The Leon Levy Expedition), led by Museum Director and Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel Lawrence E. Stager. The Museum, through its Harvard Semitic Series and Harvard Semitic Mono graphs, publishes archaeological, historical, philological and cultural studies of the Near East, many of which present the research of the department faculty and their students.

Current Exhibit: The Sphinx and the Pyramids

Presently on display in the Museum's newly renovated ground floor gallery is the The Sphinx and the Pyramids: 100 Years of American Archaeology at Giza. The exhibit surveys four decades of excavations at Giza by archaeologist George A. Reisner (1867-1942), Assistant Professor of Semitic Languages at Harvard and Director of the joint Egyptian Expedition of Harvard University and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Reisner's excavations uncovered some of the finest masterpieces of ancient Egyptian art. The exhibition also highlights the spectacular results of the Koch-Ludwig Giza Plateau Project, directed by Dr. Mark Lehner, Research Associate in Egyptian Archaeology at the Semitic Museum. The project has unearthed lost settlements of the Pyramid builders and is recreating the landscape of the Sphinx and the Pyramids through state-of-the-art computer modeling. The exhibit will continue at the Semitic Museum through the summer of 1996. Some photographs of the exhibit can be viewed on the web!

Photo: Entrance to the exhibit: The Sphinx and the Pyramids: 100 Years of American Archaeology at Giza. Foreground: Pharaoh Menkaure and his queen; mid-ground: Colossus of Menkaure; background: Menkaure's pyramid (photomural). [photo by Carl Andrews, Semitic Museum]


The Museum is open Monday through Friday, 10-4 and Sunday 1-4. The Museum Shop offers a wide range of books, jewelry and gifts with and Ancient Near Eastern flair. Purchases may be made by mail order. The Museum publishes the Semitic Museum Newsletter which is distributed quarterly to its members and friends. For membership information, tour reservations or other inquiries, please telephone 617/495-4631, fax 496-8904 or email (

Web pages for the Harvard University Museums were initially created by the Office of Information Services and Technology at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in September, 1995. The Semitic Museum now maintains its own web pages. If you have questions or comments, please contact Richard Saley.
Web-site author: Maria Piacente
University of Toronto, MMST

Updated 5/8/96 k-jg, cambridge, ma