-Schaeffer to Mason, January 9, 1940
On January 9th, Mason received this cable granting the Penn Museum permission for archaeological excavations in Panama at the site of Sitio Conte. The Museum’s agent in Panama, Charles Schaeffer sent a more detailed letter that same day stating that: “the Secretary of Public Instruction, this morning, assured us that he would sign a contract authorizing your expedition on the terms agreed to by you and the Contes” and also that the conditions of the contract were “substantially those of the Peabody contract.” The main issue in question was whether or not Panamanian law allowed foreign excavations on private lands, since the land was owned by the Conte family. In 1927, Miguel Conte discovered the Pre-Columbian cemetery on his property and “had encouraged professional archaeologists to help record the history of the ancient Coclé people who once lived there.”1 He had invited the Peabody excavation down and would now be hosting the Penn Museum.
Receiving permission from the Panamanian government was the last major hurdle for Mason and the Museum. All the pieces were finally falling into place!
Lucy Fowler Williams, “Beneath the Surface: The Excavations at Sitio Conte” Expedition 56, no. 3 (Winter, 2014), 17.