Introduction

Organized by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) in Philadelphia and drawn from its collections, this exhibition presents more than 120 pieces of goldwork created by artists and artisans from an ancient American society in central Panama.  The exhibition includes large embossed plaques, cast pendants and nose ornaments, gold-sheathed ear rods, and bead necklaces, as well as polychrome ceramics.  These and other objects were recovered from excavations carried out 1940 by the Penn Museum at Sitio Conte, an archeological site in present day Coclé  province on the western side of the Gulf of Panama.

The exhibition, which has toured nationally, helps to demonstrate the history of archaeology and its relationship to art-making, as well as the use of precious metals by ancient cultures. A special section of the exhibition prepared by research scientists at Penn provides the opportunity to study the materiality of objects and artworks through an investigation of the metallurgical techniques of the ancient goldsmiths at Sitio Conte.  The exhibition also supports classes offered in the fall semester of the 2013–14 academic year.

 

Image: Embossed gold plaque. Sitio Conte, ca. 700–900 ce. 8.7 x 7.8 in. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, PA (40-13-11). Photo: Penn Museum.