Lynn Meskell

A world-renowned archaeologist with joint appointments in the Department of Anthropology of the School of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation and Department of City and Regional Planning in the Weitzman School of Design, and the Penn Museum as a Curator in the Asian and Near East Sections.

Anthropology + Historic Preservation + Penn Museum

lynn meskell

“Lynn Meskell exemplifies Penn’s commitment to bridging theory and practice and to using multidisciplinary perspectives to improve human understanding,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Her work as an internationally preeminent archaeologist and anthropologist has helped explain and document the development of civilizations across Africa and Eurasia. She has also harnessed this fieldwork to improve the frameworks that scholars use to model human culture and to strengthen the important work of museums in bringing this knowledge to communities around the world.”

Meskell was most recently Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, where she taught since 2005, and is an AD White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University from 2019-2025. Born in Australia, she has done pioneering archaeological work across the world, including research into Neolithic Turkey and New Kingdom Egypt. Her most current work explores World Heritage sites in India, especially how heritage bureaucracies interact with the needs of living communities, and the implications of archaeological research for wider contemporary challenges of heritage, national sovereignty, and multilateral diplomacy. Her landmark institutional ethnography of UNESCO World Heritage, A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage and the Dream of Peace (Oxford University Press, 2018) – awarded the 2019 Best Book Award from the Society for American Archaeology – rereads the politics of preservation in relation to international history and global practices of governance and sovereignty.

Meskell served for six years as Director of the Stanford Archaeology Center, is the founding editor of the Journal of Social Archaeology, and has published a dozen books, which explore the connections between archaeological research and a wide range of contemporary areas including ethics, class, feminist theory, and postcolonialism. She has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Australian Research Council, and the American Academy in Rome, among many others, and is an Honorary Professor at the University of Oxford, the University of Liverpool, Shiv Nadar University, and the University of the Witwatersrand. She earned a PhD in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge, following a BA with First Class Honours from the University of Sydney, and began her academic career at Columbia University, where she taught from 1999-2005, following a two-year Salvesen Research Fellowship at New College of Oxford University.

 “Lynn Meskell is one of the world’s most innovative and influential archaeological scholars,” said Provost Pritchett. “In her exciting work, the past comes alive to illuminate the present, spanning issues from feminism and postcolonialism to conservation, diplomacy, and peace. Her work at Penn will reflect her extraordinary interdisciplinary scope, at our world-leading Penn Museum and in academic programs across archaeology, city planning, and historic preservation.”

The Penn Integrates Knowledge program was launched by President Gutmann in 2005 as a University-wide initiative to recruit exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across disciplines and who are appointed in at least two Schools at Penn.

The Richard D. Green University Professorship is a gift of the late Richard D. Green, a 1952 graduate of The Wharton School.

  • Global
  • Near/Middle East
  • South Asia
  • Africa
  • Egypt
  • UNESCO World Heritage


"The Temple That Sparked an Armed Conflict," VICE World News, June 10, 2021.

"EXNOVO Meets Lynn Meskell," Confederazione Italiana Archeologi 2021 Annual Meeting, March 20-27, 2021.

"The Intersection of Heritage with Past-Facing Academic Disciplines: a Panel Discussion," University of Oxford, School of Archaeology, March 12, 2021.



"Lynn Meskell appointed Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor," Penn Today, November 18, 2020

The Cold War, American Archaeology, and UNESCO in Egypt and Syria (with C. Luke), History and Anthropology 31/4

Imperialism, Internationalism, and Archaeology in the Un/Making of the Middle East, American Anthropologist, 122/3: 554-567

International Organisations, in F, Francioni and A. Vrdoljak (eds)The Oxford Handbook of International Cultural Heritage Law, Oxford, OUP. 14-40

UNESCO, World Heritage and the Gridlock over Yemen (with B. Isakhan), Third World Quarterly 2020:1-16

Toilets First, Temples Second: Adopting Heritage in Neoliberal IndiaInternational Journal of Heritage Studies 2020:1-19

A Comment on the DisruptionAustralian Archaeology 86/3

Comment on C. De Cesari, Heritage Beyond the Nation-State? Nongovernmental Organizations, Changing Cultural Policies, and the Discourse of Heritage as Development for Current Anthropology 61/1

World Heritage and WikiLeaks: Territory, Trade and Temples on the Thai-Cambodian Border, in P. Peycam, S. Wang and Y. Hui (eds) Heritage as Aid and Diplomacy in Asia, ISAES: Leiden. 17-51

What’s the point of UNESCO? History Today, March, 13-15

Lynn Meskell on her book A Future in Ruins” UNESCO, World Heritage and the Dream of Peace, ROROTOKO, Feb, 6, 2019.      ruins_unesco_world_heritage_dream/

  • PhD (Archaeology) - University of Cambridge
  • Bachelor of Arts - University of Sydney
Additional Penn Profiles

School of Arts and Sciences
Department of Anthropology

Phone: 215-898-7073
427 Penn Museum
Philadelphia, PA 19104