Panamanian and Villa Maria Students Treated to Private Preview at Penn Museum

Villa Maria’s Panamanian exchange students come to the US to experience American culture and school life. But this year’s group of Villa and Malvern Prep visitors also spent time seeing and sharing their own culture on display here when they visited Beneath the Surface: Life, Death, and Gold in Ancient Panama, a new exhibition at the Penn Museum.

The exhibition, based on famous 1940 archaeological excavations in Panama, opens  February 7, the same day the students return home. Villa’s Director of Curriculum Mrs. Jeane McNamara, not wanting to miss a chance for greater cultural exchange, called the museum to ask if there was a way to see it before the opening. The museum invited the group for a private preview guided by the exhibit’s curator, Dr. Clark Erickson, who was eager to learn about the Panamanian students understanding of their country’s early culture.

In 1940, the Penn Museum sent an expedition to Sitio Conte, Panama, where the team unearthed an extraordinary culture—and extraordinary treasures made of gold, precious and semi-precious stones, bones, ivory and painted pottery. The excavation helped to tell the world about the existence of this once-unknown people, the Coclé, who lived in Panama more than 1,000 years ago. Today, Panamanian archaeologists at the nearby site of El Caño are finding similar treasures—and building on the knowledge from earlier excavations.