Region: Mesoamerica

Contours of Inequality

Landscapes of Colonial Slavery on a Bahama Island

By: Allan Meyers and Megan Adams

Contours of Inequality Landscapes of Colonial Slavery on a Bahama Island TOPOGRAPHIC RELIEF—the rise and fall of the land—may not immediately come to mind when pondering the history of West Indian slavery. But its importance has never been lost on descendants of those who worked the colonial plantations of Cat Island in the Bahamas. A […]

Divinity and Power in the Ancient Americas

The Reimagine Mexico and Central America Gallery

By: Simon Martin

November 2019 marks the opening of the transformed Mexico and Central America Gallery. The new space displays some of the finest artifacts of their kind in the U.S., including some never previously displayed. The Gallery continues to emphasize our fine collection of Maya objects— including the largest and most important group of stelae outside the […]

A Continuous Thread

Subversion and Solidarity in Maya Cloth

By: Lucy Fowler Williams

FOR 1,500 YEARS, MAYA WOMEN HAVE WOVEN cotton garments with designs that depict the Maya cosmos and supernatural beings that sustain their world. A continuous thread through the centuries, highland Maya women of Guatemala have never stopped weaving as their communities have adapted to the massive demands of Spanish colonization, natural disasters, and the devastating […]

Gallery Sneak Peak

Africa Galleries They are often called “gold weights,” but they are actually made of brass, cast using the lost wax process. These detailed, animated figures were used as standards to weigh gold dust. Some depict animals such as porcupines, fish, and snakes, or more mundane items like coiled rope and knives. Others are geometric symbols. […]

Telling the Human Story

Siggers looking over an object with two conservation professionals.
From the Director

By: Julian Siggers

Dear Friends, This issue of Expedition celebrates the opening of the Penn Museum’s new Middle East Galleries. These Galleries trace a story that is vital not only to who we are as human beings but also to the Penn Museum’s own history. Over millennia, we as humans have gone through a number of fundamental revolutions. […]

The Mystery Queen of La Florida-Namaan

Drawing of jewels

By: Joanne Baron

During the 2016 field season at La Florida, a fascinating discovery was made. A large stela with the carved image of a royal woman was revealed just inches below the surface. Who was this mystery queen and what can this monument tell us about La Florida’s political dynasty? The Classic Maya site of La Florida […]

Secrets of Ancient Magic

The Power of Spells, Curses, & Omens

By: Kate Murphy and Cynthia Susalla

In ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, practitioners of magic exploited symbolic words, images, and rituals to achieve desired outcomes through supernatural means. Using magical acts, they attempted to control supernatural powers— gods, demons, spirits, or ghosts—to accomplish something beyond the scope of human capabilities. The exhibition Magic in the Ancient World, now at the […]

Mrs. Scaife & The Jade Mask

A Memoir of Tikal

By: Stuart D. Scott

On the warm spring morning of March 5, 1959, as the sun first appeared over the tiered rainforest canopy of mahogany, ceiba, and sapodilla trees, a significant day was dawning at Tikal. The day started uneventfully except for the planned departure of some important visitors. Publicity about the Penn Museum’s Tikal Project, through its contract […]

From the Archives

The Old Guatemala Trotters: A Friendship Deepened through War

By: Janet Simon

This is the story of two individuals drawn together through their work in Maya archaeology, who later developed a friendship that transcended their professional lives. From archival materials, we reconstructed their relationship at a critical period just after World War II. The story of Mary Butler and Franz Termer is one of unique kindness. Across […]

Reports from the Field

City of the Serpent Kings: Calakmul, Mexico

By: Simon Martin

If you were to fly low over the forests of southeastern Mexico, about 35 km from the border with Guatemala, you would see two immense mounds rising high above the canopy. These ruined pyramids announce the presence of Calakmul, one of the greatest cities of Classic Maya civilization (300–900 CE). Beneath the trees lie 6,000 […]