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American Section

Success Amid the Maya Collapse

Ucanal, Guatemala

The unraveling of Classic Maya civilization in the ninth century CE remains one of the most enigmatic events in world history. In little more than a century a landscape once inhabited by millions was left all but empty and its great cities reclaimed by the forest. But in the midst of that process a handful of cities underwent not decline but growth, with new monumental construction and an increased population. One of those places was the hilltop site of Ucanal in Guatemala, and in collaboration with an excavation project directed by Dr. Christina Halperin at the Université de Montréal, Dr. Simon Martin from the Penn Museum seeks to understand the last era of Ucanal’s occupation through its inscriptions.

Tivoli Stories

On May 24, 2010, at least 75 Jamaican civilians were killed when police and military forces entered the West Kingston community in an attempt to apprehend Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a gang leader and community leader. Survivors tell their stories in a multi-modal ethnography project designed to provide a platform for West Kingston community members to narrate their experience, and to name and memorialize lost loved ones.

Santa Bárbara Archaeological Project

(Proyecto Arqueológico-Santa Bárbara) The Santa Bárbara Archaeological Project investigates indigenous labor at Huancavelica, the largest mercury mine in the Americas (AD 1564-1810). Spanish colonial adminstrators forced Andean communities to annually rotate one-seventh of their population for mining labor, yet how indigenous peoples experienced and survived this experience is poorly understood. Therefore, this project joins archaeology, colonial archives, and oral histories to understand everyday life at a mine so brutal that it became known as la mina de la muerte, or “the mine of death”.

Shotridge Research and Stewardship Project

The Shotridge Research and Stewardship Project (SRSP) focuses on the Northwest Coast ethnographic collections made by Penn Museum’s Tlingit Assistant Curator Louis Shotridge. Research involves scholars, specialists, and community members.

Smith Creek Archaeological Project

The Smith Creek Archaeological Project (SCAP) focuses on a pre-contact Native American mound site in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. The site served as an important ritual center for over 1000 years. Research at the site focuses on the complex relationships that existed between monument construction and identity, as well as foodways and politics through archaeological excavation and analysis of the recovered materials. When The Smith Creek Archaeological Project (SCAP) focuses on a Native American mound-and-plaza center that was constructed by Coles Creek people (700-1200 CE) and later occupied by Plaquemine people (1200-1350 CE). Recent excavations have also revealed an earlier occupation by Tchefuncte people (ca. 200 BCE).

Llamas, Alpacas, and Fish in the Ancient Landscapes of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Ancient herders depended on their flocks for food, trade, and security in a changing environment.

Calakmul Epigraphic Research Project

Calakmul was the largest city of Classic Maya civilization and one of the dominant powers in the complex geopolitics of this culture period.

Early Copan Acropolis Program

Copan Acropolis: Excavations at the capital of the Classic Maya kingdom of Copan have uncovered the palaces, temples, and physical remains of a royal dynasty dating from 400-800 CE.

Louis Shotridge Digital Archive Project

Louis Shotridge Digital Archive was created to make the remarkable Shotridge collection accessible to scholars, students, and community leaders interested in learning more about Southeastern Alaskan Native history and culture.

Pre-Columbian Monumental Earthworks of the Amazon

Recently documented monumental earthworks throughout the region of Western Amazonia provide important evidence of an advanced pre-Columbian civilization.


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