“In the meantime we are making all arrangements so that the moment that information arrives we can start the wheel going.”
-Mason to Lothrop, January 5, 1940
As the dust from the holidays settled, Mason returned to work firing off correspondence about everything the team would need down in Panama. Luckily back in December, Samuel K. Lothrop from the Peabody Museum, had given Mason a long list of notes [see Lothrop Notes] about the ins and outs of excavating in Panama and specifically at Sitio Conte. Here are a few important ones:
1. Ask Schaeffer about customs in and out; Zetek helped.
13. Men live at home and provide their own lunches; we provide water. Camp water is boiled river water. Make a pier at river to get water.
15. Buy paper bags & cotton for packing in Panama. Cloth bags not securable there. Take from here quantities of small cardboard boxes for fine small specimens. Get packing paper in Panama, old newspapers, etc., but must ask early to have them collected. Old gasoline boxes best for packing. May get excelsion in Panama. Get plaster there.
24. Law does not apply to private land. Article 342 of civil code, 1916. Article 102 of Law 41 of 1924. Decree 7 of 1925, Feb. 23.
27. Need lots of flashlights.
33. Few mosquitoes; none in daytime. Nobody got malaria. First aid goods, aspirin. No quinine prophylaxis. No heavy bush. Very clean country for tropics. Little dysentery. Sick can be taken to Panama quickly. Dr. James best physician, if sober.
38. Buy top of toilet seat and nail on, with a pit and brush fence.
43. Cook can bake; his [Lothrop] had a tin oven but might have to bring one down. No butter. Get stock of canned food in in [sic] Panonome or Panama. Order by case in Panama, not from States except lots of sauses [sic], etc., for poor meat. Don’t use local lard; use canned lard, Crisco or butter. (Danish butter probably hard to get now. ) Meat can be purchased twice a week in Penonome and must by law be sold by 9 AM. Can be kept overnight in water. Might buy one of these refrigerators run by kerosene (Crossley Carp., I think:)–See Abercrombie about these & similar things. Could make ice then. Can get ice & beer from Penonome. Plenty of oranges, some bananas. Pork not good. No local vegetables. All vegetables canned. Rice, potatoes, beans (probably means these available locally or in Penonome). Can occasionally get chicken & eggs; chicken very tough. No milk; take canned or Klim. Take plenty of buillion cubes.
57. Best pottery is at bottom, sometimes 12 ft down. Best gold near top.
58. Make small drawings of broken vessels & object & put in later on large general plan.
65. Get snake venom from one of these above. Curtis is practical man who will help with practical methods, house-building, etc. He likes duck-shooting.
66. Chicha for work men on payday. One good expedition ball (best during Holy Week)
Some of these tips are self-explanatory and practical: typical considerations to make when planning an expedition. Perhaps the most important of all the tips are #1 and #24, about Panama’s laws regarding foreign excavations on private lands. This was going to be the deal breaker: could the Penn Museum legally excavate and bring objects back from Panama to Philadelphia? Lothrop advised Mason to write George S. Schaeffer of the Chase National Bank in Panama about the antiquities laws in Panama. Schaeffer was Lothrop and Harvard’s agent in Panama and negotiated the contracts between the landowners at the site and the university in the early 30s. Mason asked him to do the same for the Penn Museum and was awaiting his response. As he told Lothrop: “In the meantime we are making all arrangements so that the moment that information arrives we can start the wheel going.” More on this later…