The Last Step in a Long Journey

Moving Monuments From Piedras Negras Into the Penn Museum, 1933; Looking Back

By: Alessandro Pezzati

Originally Published in 2019

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A stela from Piedras Negras being hoisted into the Museum through a window

IN 1930, J. Alden Mason, American Section Curator, arranged for an unprecedented loan from the Government of Guatemala of Maya monuments from Piedras Negras, a site renowned for its beautifully carved stone monuments, or stelae. Due to the inaccessibility of the site deep in the Petén jungle, the plan required building a road in the jungle from the site to the Usumacinta River, loading the monuments onto an oxcart, and guiding them through the rapids on wooden rafts. The monuments were carried overland to the Mexican town of Tenosique and transported by river steamboat and then steamship to the Gulf of Mexico and to New Orleans, before continuing by steamship to Philadelphia. The last step of the journey, pictured here, involved hoisting the pieces through a window of the Museum’s Lower Fitler Pavilion, where the Mexico and Central America Gallery is still located today (PM image 175934). Maya monuments from Piedras Negras can be seen in the new Gallery.

Cite This Article

Pezzati, Alessandro. "The Last Step in a Long Journey." Expedition Magazine 61, no. 2 (November, 2019): -. Accessed April 16, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/the-last-step-in-a-long-journey/


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