John R. Claybourn collected this three-legged ceramic vessel in 1927 from a mortuary site near Los Volcanas in Chiriqui Province, Panama. As early as the 17th century, colonial explorers, colonizers, and collectors sought the elaborate gold ornaments that had been buried with Chiriqui chiefly elites. Collectors also desired Chiriqui ceramics such as this three-legged animal effigy. It took much longer for systematic archaeological work to begin in the region, and much important knowledge has been lost as a result of widespread looting. Today, the UMMAA would not accept objects collected from graves without governmental permits and approvals. In the early decades of the Museum, however, such collections were used as a means of introducing students to world prehistory and material culture.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.