University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Region: Mesoamerica


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 […]


Native American Voices Today

From the Guest Editor

By: Lucy Fowler Williams

This special issue of Expedition is an extension of our new exhibition, Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now, and highlights Native American sovereignty through the work of some of today’s most talented Native leaders, several of whom are here at Penn. Native Americans hold a special status in our country as members of sovereign […]


Researching the Pueblo Revolt of 1680

By: Joseph R. Aguilar

On August 10, 1680, the Pueblo people, along with their Navajo and Apache allies, orchestrated what is arguably the most successful indigenous insurrection against a European colonial power in the New World. The uprising, led by Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo leader Popé, laid siege to and captured the capital of Santa Fe while missions at pueblos […]


Portrait – Remembering Robert J. Sharer (1940-2012)

By: Ellen E. Bell

Dr. Robert J. Sharer was the Sally and Alvin Shoemaker Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and Curator Emeritus of the American Section at the Penn Museum. He completed a B.A. in history at Michigan State University in 1961 and a Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He […]


The Accidental Mayanist: Tatiana Proskouriakoff

By: Alessandro Pezzati

Of all the brilliant minds that have lit up the firmament of ancient Maya studies, there is none that arouses as much admiration, inspiration, and outright devotion as Tatiana Proskouriakoff (1909–1985). Born in Russia, she came to the United States with her family in 1916 and stayed after the Russian revolution broke out. She obtained […]


A Marvel of Maya Engineering

Water Management at Tikal

By: Peter D. Harrison

Maya structures are often described as great feats of engineering. Perhaps no site in the Maya Lowlands illustrates this more than the ancient city of Tikal in Guatemala. When the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology first excavated at Tikal between 1955 and 1969, the investigation of tombs, palaces, and temples was considered […]


Copan Altar Q

By: Robert Sharer

Altar Q was dedicated by Copan’s 16th ruler, Yax Pasaj Chan Yopaat in 776 CE. The four sides of this carved stone display the portraits of all 16 Copan rulers seated on thrones formed by their name glyphs. The sequence begins with the dynastic founder, K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’, whose name is in his headdress […]


Time, Kingship, and the Maya Universe Maya Calendars

An Overview

By: Simon Martin

In 1832 constantine Samuel Rafinesque a polymath who made contributions to the fields of botany, zoology, linguistics, meteorology, and geology wrote to the celebrated decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Jean-François Champollion. The letter contained, among other things, his conclusion that ancient Maya numerals were formed from dots that represented the number one and bars that represented five. […]