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 Museum Explorer

Birds and beasts in
the Americas

Drawing of a caiman

Height: 306.000 mm
Width: 454.000 mm

PD Sl 5275-61

Drawing of a caiman

From: Surinam or Amsterdam
Date: about AD 1699-1705

Maria Sibylla Merian was a German artist and scientist who travelled to Surinam in South America and painted the animals and plants found there. She was unusual as it was mostly men who recorded these exciting new species.

Before the invention of photography, paintings and drawings were the only way that Europeans could see how animals behaved in the wild in the Americas without travelling across the Atlantic Ocean themselves. This picture shows two animals that could be dangerous - a caiman and a false coral snake - that people in Europe would never have seen before.