University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology

Region: South America


The Excavations at Sitio Conte

Beneath the Surface

By: Lucy Fowler Williams

The Penn Museum’s excavations at Sitio Conte began in 1940 with an invitation from private landowner, Miguel Conte. Since discovering a Pre-Columbian cemetery on his property in 1927, Conte had encouraged professional archaeologists to help record the history of the ancient Coclé people who once lived there. Associate Curator J. Alden Mason took the lead […]


A Treasure Among the Sherds

Beneath the Surface

By: Lynn Grant

The treatments done by Penn Museum conservators usually relate to a current exhibition or loan. For our interns, however, we often seek out specially challenging or interesting projects that might otherwise not be treated. In the spring of 2009, when Beneath the Surface: Life, Death, and Gold in Ancient Panama was just a glimmer in […]


Peopling the Past

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of Beneath the Surface: Life Death and Gold in Ancient Panama

We are often asked about the planning that goes into the design and construction of an exhibition—questions that are answered and decisions that are made well before an exhibition opens to the public. On February 7, 2015, Beneath the Surface: Life, Death, and Gold in Ancient Panama will open at the Penn Museum. This 2,000-square-foot […]


In the Galleries – Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster

Propaganda has long been used to mobilize people in times of war. Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster presents 33 posters, most targeting African and African-American civilians. These carefully designed works of art were aimed at mobilizing people of color in war efforts, even as they faced oppression and injustice in […]


Expedition to the Amazon

The First Documentary Film with Sound

By: Kate R. Pourshariati

For almost 80 years, the 49-minute film Matto Grosso: The Great Brazilian Wilderness lay in the Penn Museum Archives, waiting for the day when it would be rediscovered and identified as the first “sync sound” documentary film ever created. This film—part adventure movie and part documentary—was restored and digitized by archivists in 2010. The original […]


Postscript – November 2013

Matto Grosso’s path to obscurity may have been set by several factors: it was not feature length, it was not a financial success, and, most importantly, it was not easy to categorize, as it was a mix of science and adventure. After early screenings it became a forgotten Museum artifact. Now, having completed a restoration […]


An Introduction to the Inca Empire

By: Thomas J. Hardy

The Incas by Craig Morris and Adriana von Hagan (New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 2012). 256 pp., 189 illustrations (49 in color), paperback, $26.95, ISBN 978-0- 5002894-4-0 In 1532, Spanish conquistadores encountered—and defeated—the largest empire ever to have existed in the New World. The quadripartite Inca Empire, known as Tawantinsuyu (the “Four Parts Together”), […]


William Farabee, Martyr to Science

By: Alessandro Pezzati

William Curtis Farabee (1865–1925) is one of the great forgotten American explorers and anthropologists. He obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1903, conducting his first expedition to Peru in 1909. In 1912, at age 48, he arrived at Penn to head the Amazon expedition, a three-year journey up and down the Amazon River and […]


Hidden Earthworks in the Forests of the Bolivian Amazon

By: John H. Walker

The Andes and the coast of Peru are famous for spectacular places and things: the mountaintop city of Machu Picchu, the mysterious Nazca lines, and elaborate Moche gold work. Archaeologists in the lowlands point to other phenomena: the first pottery in the Americas from the lower Amazon River, and archaeological sites stretching for kilometers beneath modern […]


Midden Finds

By: Peter D. Harrison

The most surprising finds in the kitchen garbage dump were fragmented, burned, and gnawed human bones, recovered among burned animal bones. The human remains included both skulls—broken and burned on the interior—and fragments of long bones. The human bones from the midden are still under study and have not yet been published, so the cause […]