El Museo Antropológico
El Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Araúz (Avenida Juan Pablo II and Calle Curundu, tel. 232-7644, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat. and Sun., US$2 adults, US$0.25 students), Panama’s anthropology museum, has a troubled history, including a dramatic robbery in 2003 and funding shortages that forced it into a moribund existence for years.
Sometimes known by the acronym MARTA, it was taken in 2006 from its longtime home in what had originally been the terminus of the Panama Railroad, on Plaza Cinco de Mayo.
The new Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Araúz is a cement monolith from the exposed-duct school of modern design. It’s hard to predict what will actually be on view when you visit, but described here are some of the highlights of the museum’s permanent collection of 15,000 pieces.
Most intriguing to me are the pieces from the Barriles culture, believed to be Panama’s earliest major civilization. The figures on display came from a ceremonial center that dates from around 60 B.C. and consist of about a dozen and a half carvings of stone figures and fragments.
The museum’s gold collection includes figures of animals, armor plates, ceramics, jewelry, breast plates, a crown, and other items made by ancient indigenous peoples and recovered from archaeological sites around the country.
Most of the items are huacas, ceremonial treasures buried with prominent indigenous people. The oldest item, a copper and gold nose ring found on Cerro Juan Díaz on the Azuero Peninsula, dates from 180 B.C. As part of Panama’s centennial celebration in 2003, the Reprosa jewelry store, well known for its replicas of huacas, made reproductions of some of the prized ones in this collection. One especially impressive piece is a large spider made of gold and copper.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition