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The Dennos Museum Center

River of Gold: Precolumbian Treasures from Sitio Conte

October 11, 2009 - March 28, 2010

This exhibit presents more than 120 exquisitely crafted pieces of Precolumbian goldwork from the University of Pennsylvania  Museum's 1940 excavations at the ancient cemetery site of Sitio Conte in what is now central Panama. The exhibition includes large embossed plaques, cast pendants and nose ornaments, gold-sheathed ear rods, and necklaces of intricate beads-as well as polychrome ceramics, and objects made of precious and semi-precious stones, whale-tooth ivory, and bone.

In the first section of the exhibit, visitors are introduced to the geographical setting of central Panama and the excavations at Sitio Conte. The exciting story of the dramatic find of a multi-grave burial containing a wealth of gold is told through site photographs, maps, drawings, even a video from the original color film of the archaeological team. The second section reconstructs lifestyles of Precolumbian society in ancient Panama. The third section analyzes the tantalizing iconography found on Sitio Conte goldwork and ceramics to help viewers interpret aspects of a long-lost ideology. The sophisticated metallurgical processes by which the goldsmiths of Sitio Conte achieved extraordinary results are thoughtfully explained in the final section of the exhibition.

River of Gold is not only visually stunning. It also gives viewers an invaluable glimpse into a Panamanian society as it was 1,000 years ago.

This exhibition was organized by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Educators can find more information here.