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Men of the Montaña

Identifier: Film Collection no. 211

Scope and Contents

Filmed during the AMNH Tschopik Expedition to Peru, 1953. This film was made during the AMNH Tschopik Expedition to Peru in 1953. Dr. Harry Tschopik, AMNH ethnologist, visited the Shipibo, Conibo, and Campa Indians living in the Montana area of Peru along the upper Amazon River. He collected ethnographic specimens and made motion pictures of the people for the museum. The film material is unedited and is discussed here by content: first the Chamas section comprised of the Shipibo and Conibo, and secondly, the Campa section. Tschopik presented this material on various Adventure programs (see index). This footage was also studied by the MGM production staff in preparation for filming the movie Green Mansions, released in 1959. The Chamas section of the film opens with the launch, Queen Mary of the Amazon, navigating the Amazon River and shows the fauna on the banks: toucans, an owl, a cayman, and turtles. The Shipibo are then introduced: the women wearing hammered coins in their noses, genipa painting on their faces and hands, bright western blouses, and wrapped woven skirts; the men dressed in long woven robes painted with geometric designs, and beaded collars. The life and customs of the two tribes are shown including: slash-and-burn agriculture; the construction of a common house; women weaving, spinning, sewing, and painting fabric; the making of pottery; the use of head presses to flatten infants' heads; hunting with blowgun and poison dart; and fishing with bow and arrow. The next sequence is devoted to the Conibo and begins with a girl's puberty ceremony. The ceremony begins with the cutting of the girl's hair in an adult style followed by a clitoridectomy, which Tschopik did not film. The lives of the Conibo men are shown, including: shooting, clubbing, preparation, and roasting of a pig and a chicken; and two young men fighting over a girl in a traditional duel (one man's scalp is cut ear to ear). The second part of this film was made during a traditional communal fishing expedition of the Campa Indians to the Aruya River. Tschopik had arranged with the natives to bring his cameras and photograph this traditional expedition. The Indians are seen preparing to move to an island campsite in the Aruya River, a tributary of the Shehuaya River, where the age-old custom will take place. Arrows are made and provisions are gathered: as some women gather manioc tubers, others grind the tubers with their teeth, spit them into a wooden trough, and mash them to make a manioc liquid called masota beer. Their numerous pet birds and monkeys move about them as they work. The men reach the campsite by dugout canoes and construct a shelter, covering it with palm fronds and putting up mosquito nets. The men wear woven cotton cushmas, a long shirt, and plaited hats. The women also wear cushmas, but with embellishments of wild seeds and toucan scalps sewn onto the sleeves. For important events such as this, the Campa men adorn their faces with genipa paintings. The Campa are shown crushing barbasco vines to produce a poison used for drugging fish. Toli, the Campa chief, blows a horn summoning the tribe to begin the hunt: the dugout canoes are filled with the barbasco vines mixed with clay and water. This is then thrown into the river and the Campas easily kill the drugged fish with their bows and arrows. The fish are cooked and smoked on a pyramid-shaped platform, supported by three or four legs, called a babracot. The film ends at a feast where everyone, proud of their success, eats, plays pan-pipes and drums, and dances. The consumption of much masota beer makes the feast merry.


  • 1953

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Not available through interlibrary loan. Contact AMNH Library Special Collections for terms of access.


1 Film Reel (43 minutes) : silent, color ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (43 minutes)) : silent, color ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy


Original format: 16 mm. print; incomplete.



Harry Tschopik, photographer.

Men of the Montaña, 1953
Iris Lee
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
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