Dr. Possehl, Anthropology

Dr. Gregory L. Possehl, professor emeritus of anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences and curator emeritus of the Asian collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, passed away on October 8, 2011, at age 70.

Dr. Possehl received his BA from the University of Washington in 1964, his MA from the University of Washington in 1967, and his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1974, all in anthropology.

He joined the South Asian regional studies department at Penn in 1973. He served as associate director of the University Museum from 1981 to 1992. In 1993, he transferred to the department of anthropology and served as chair from 1994 to 2001. He was an Overseas Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. In 2004, Dr. Possehl was named an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Archaeological Society in recognition of his life-long contribution to Indian archaeology. Since its inception, Dr. Possehl was a member of the Committee on Manufacturer Responsibility, serving as chair for several years. He retired in 2007 but continued to teach.

Dr. Possehl was a leading expert on the rise of the Indus civilization in India and Pakistan. His research projects included the exploration of the Ghelo and Kalubhar Valleys in the state of Gujarat and the excavations of the Sorath Harappan sites of Oriyo Timbo, Babar Kot and Rojdi. The excavations at Rojdi resulted in the definition of the Sorath Harappan as a distinct regional manifestation of the Harappan civilization and advanced understanding of its transformation at the beginning of the second millennium BC. In 2003 he received the Outstanding Academic Book Award from Choice magazine for Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective.

Dr. Possehl and his collaborator Dr. Vasant Shinde of Deccan College conducted four seasons of excavations at Gilund in Rajasthan beginning in 1999. In the 2002-2003 field season, he discovered a bin filled with more than 100 seal impressions dating to 2,100-1,700 BC. The existence of these seals, and their particular styles, offered surprising new evidence for the apparent complexity of this non-literate, late and post-Indus culture.

In January 2007, Dr. Possehl initiated new excavations at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bat in the Sultanate of Oman. The site consists of the largest and best preserved Bronze Age cemetery in the region as well as a series of 3rd millennium habitation areas centered around large, circular structures or "towers." The project involves both the archaeological survey of Bronze Age settlement areas and focused excavations at Bronze Age sites to understand their relationships to the Bat urban center. This work is being carried on by the Deputy Director, Dr. Christopher Thornton, one of his recent doctoral students.

Dr. Possehl is survived by his son, Michael; his daughter, Christine; his grandchildren, Lisa, Grant and Quinton; his brother, Jim; and his sister, Barbara.