Richard L. Zettler

Photo Of Richard Zettler Sitting With An Ancient Statue On A Table In Front Of Him

Undergraduate ChairProfessor of Mesopotamian ArchaeologyCurator-in-Charge, Near Eastern Section of the PENN Museum

523 PENN Museum

Richard L. Zettler is an archaeologist specializing in Mesopotamia, the region occupied by modern Iraq and Syria. He received his MA and PhD (1984) in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. He worked at Nippur and Umm al-Hafriyat in southern Iraq, as well as Üç Tepe in the Hamrin or upper Diyala River basin in the late 1970s, and directed excavations at Tell es-Sweyhat, an Early Bronze Age site, whose occupation spans the third millennium BCE, on the upper Euphrates in Syria, from 1989-2007. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley in 1985-86 before coming to the University of Pennsylvania in 1986-87. 

Dr. Zettler’s research focuses on the third and early second millennia BCE. His particular interests include urbanism and the socio-economic organization of complex societies, as well as methodological complexities of integrating archaeological and documentary data. His books include interpretative studies like The Ur III Temple of Inanna at Nippur, as well as excavation reports such as Excavations at Nippur: Kassite Buildings in Area WC-1 and Subsistence and Settlement in a Marginal Environment: Tell es-Sweyhat, 1989-1995 Preliminary Report. He is currently working on the publication of the excavations of the temple of Inanna at Nippur, which took place in the 1950s and early 60s, and his own excavations at Tell es-Sweyhat. 

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Zettler is Associate Curator-in-Charge of Penn Museum’s Near East Section, which houses more than 100,000 artifacts from excavations across the Middle East. He co-curated Penn Museum’s Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, a highly successful traveling exhibit which appeared at venues across the US from 1998-2007. He recently collaborated in the re-installation of the Museum’s collections from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, entitled Iraq’s Ancient Past: Rediscovering the Royal Cemetery of Ur. The exhibit opened to the public in October 2009.

Courses Taught
  • Origins and Cultures of Cities (NELC 103)
  • Ancient Civilizations of the World (NELC 182)
  • Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel (NELC 153)
  • Iraq: Ancient Cities and Empires (NELC 241/641)