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Region: South America


Brazil From Above

General Rondon and the Matto Grosso Expedition

By: Eric H. Hobson

In 1931, the Penn Museum’s Matto Grosso Expedition landed a serendipitous opportunity to court the celebrated Brazilian Army general who had mapped the country and led Teddy Roosevelt through the jungle, by offering him a lift in their state-of-the-art Siko rsky S-38 aircraft. A successful trip meant vital access for the expedition to sustain its […]


The Matto Grosso Expedition

Brazil, 1931

By: Alessandro Pezzati

Few expeditions of the Penn Museum have been as colorful as the Matto Grosso Expedition of 1931. Organized by Captain Vladimir Perfilieff, a Russian-born artist and world traveler, and Alexander (Sasha) Siemel, a Latvian who had worked for many years in Brazil as a guide and hunter, this was no ordinary academic venture. The stated […]


From Plague to Profit

Photo of weaver
Chambira Weaving in Amazonian Peru

By: Daniel Bauer

Global integration, through tourism and conservation efforts, has shaped resource use in rural Amazonia. The chambira (chahm-BEE-ra) palm (Astrocaryum chambira), once a plant that was considered by locals to be a nuisance, has gained value and economic importance in numerous communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Use of the chambira represents an alternative livelihood strategy for […]


The Lost Explorer

Photo of Petrullo and chief

By: Alessandro Pezzati

The Disappearance of Colonel Percy H. Fawcett in the jungles of Mato Grosso*, Brazil in 1925 is still headline news. The Lost City of Z, by David Grann, published in 2009, has now been made into a film. At the time, the story of the fearless and obsessive explorer, looking for a lost city in […]


Mummies Beyond the Grave

An Introduction to Mummy Studies around the World

By: Janet Monge

Over 20 years ago, I got hooked on mummies. It began when we first x-rayed the many South and North American mummies that are part of the Physical Anthropology Section collections at the Penn Museum. This led to a drive to glean even more information from the mummies. For several years, on Sunday mornings at […]


Frozen Mummies of the Andes

Photo of author with mummies
Human Sacrifices in the Sacred Landscape of the Inca

By: Johan Reinhard

The Incas are renowned for massive carved stone structures, the construction of thousands of miles of roads, and the establishment of one of the greatest empires in the ancient Americas. However, one of their achievements remains especially impressive. In just over sixty years (ca. 1470–1532 CE), they constructed stone structures on nearly 100 mountains ranging […]


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 […]