Pop culture meets ancient history

Pop culture today is filled with tales of older women seducing younger men, men who seemingly hop from woman to woman and unwed parents quarreling over their children (and everything else under the sun).

In 2005, former “Brat Packer” Demi Moore was labeled a “cougar” for marrying actor Ashton Kutcher, who is 16 years her junior.

In his book, journalist Peter Biskind alleges that Warren Beatty, an actor and one-time notorious “playa,” slept with nearly 13,000 women before settling down in the early 1990s.

And in 2008, rapper 50 Cent’s “baby mama,” Shaniqua Tompkins, filed a $50 million lawsuit against the MC, claiming he promised to support her for the rest of his life. The conflict between them is referred to as “baby mama drama.”

These events occurred fairly recently, but according to a program at the Penn Museum, they could have easily happened centuries or even millennia ago. In fact, plenty of similar events did, proving that human beings haven’t changed much over thousands of years.

On Thursday, Feb. 11, the Penn Museum’s Annual Young Friends Valentine’s Program will present some of these salacious tales in “Cougars, Playas, and Baby Mama Drama in the Ancient World,” a romantic-themed affair to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Jennifer Wegner, associate curator of the Egyptian Section at the Museum, and C. Brian Rose, curator of the Museum’s Mediterranean Section, are slated to speak at the event.

Wegner, also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, says the ancient Egyptians “were a lot spicier than most people think.” Her talk will likely focus on a woman from an Egyptian myth whom, she says, fits our modern definition of a “cougar.”

“She tries to seduce the younger brother of her husband and much drama and violence ensues,” Wegner explains via email. She also plans to discuss a randy historical figure named Paneb who lived during the reign of King Rameses II (1279-1213 BCE).  

“He was involved in a series of affairs, fathered something like 10 kids, and was accused of all sorts of crimes including murder and tomb robbery. His story is like something out of a soap opera.”

Bea Jarocha-Ernst, an administrative assistant in Membership and Annual Giving at the Museum, helped develop the event. She says the program, which begins at 6:15 p.m., is open to anyone, but is mainly geared toward the 21-to-45-year-old crowd. She says the goal of the program is “to make the content of the Museum a little more fun.” Cocktails will be served at a cash bar. Students are welcome but must be 21 to drink. Attendees can also peruse the Museum galleries.

Nicole Stach, co-chair of the event and a member of the Young Friends Board, says she is interested in learning more about the ancient “playas.”

“I want to hear about the hot dudes in ancient history and how they faired with all their women,” she says. “These situations are things that are still obviously very relevant.”

Sam Brewer, the other co-chair who sits on the Young Friends Board, says the event is a way to introduce people to the Museum.

“This is a great way to add some fun to history and show people that the times might change, but by and large, our instincts don’t change,” he says.

For more information, call 215-898-5093 or visit www.penn.museum/cougars.

Originally published Feb. 4, 2010

Originally published on February 4, 2010