Smithsonian Institution - National Geographic Society Expedition to Panama, January - April, 1949

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The Smithsonian Institution - National Geographic Society Expedition to Panama collected and excavated areas of Panama from January - April 1949. According to a memo from Matthew Williams Stirling to Alexander Wetmore [SIA RU007006], this expedition constituted some of the first scientific work to be completed in the regions. Access to the more remote regions was expedited by Air Force stationed at Albrook Field as the group received splendid cooperation from Maj. Gen. Willis Hale, who allowed the use of two helicopters for reconnaissance work. The expedition was led by Matthew Williams Stirling, Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian, and included Marion Stirling, Richard H. Steward of the National Geographic Society, and archeologist Gordon R. Willey. Setting sail from New York aboard the S.S. Ancon, the group headed south with the Azuero Peninsula on the Pacific side of Panama as their final destination. After reaching Colon, the group crossed the isthmus to begin their work. They visited the mounds along the Rio Tigre and the region of Chepo as well as completed archaeological work at Utivé, Barriles, and in the provinces of Veraguas and Chiriqui. Excavations were conducted at a number of these sites and a previously unknown ceramic culture was encountered. At other sites, new information was obtained on the Chiriqui and Veraguas cultures.


Stirling, M. W. (1949). Exploring the past in Panama. New York: National Geographic.

Date Range

1949 - 1949


  • Archaeology
  • Guaymi Indians


  • Panama
  • Río Tigre
  • Utivé
  • Barriles
  • Veraguas, Provincia de
  • Chepo
  • Colón


Expedition name