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Ancient Pre-Hispanic Culture - Panama

Archaeologist Unravels Mysteries of Ancient Pre-Hispanic Culture

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Deep in the jungles of Central America and northern South America belonged an ancient unnamed civilization that flourished from approximately 700 AD until the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s.  Unlike the Mayans to the North and the Incas to the South, this civilization left little behind – no pyramids, megalithic structures, stone cities or monuments – their dwellings and possessions were typically made of biodegradable material.  As a result, much mystery has surrounded this ancient pre-hispanic culture.

The Spanish conquistadores who invaded the region spoke of powerful warring chiefs who fought each other to acquire land and capture enemy warriors who would become their slaves, and all archaeological evidence in the region points to this being a fact.

Archaeologist Julia Mayo has been working at a funerary site called El Caño near the Pacific coast 90 miles southwest of Panama City for the last five years, and during that time she has uncovered more than fifty individuals, many of them gold-laden warrior chiefs.  Three of those bodies have revealed the answer to many questions held about this mysterious culture – such as how the chiefs came to power and whether power was in fact inherited.

Her discovery has shown that certain boys in this culture were ‘born to rule’ and inherited power and privilege from birth.  Evidence for this hypothesis came from the discovery of a miniature gold disk depicting a crab-shaped creature with a forked tongue and crocodile’s claws, which was too small to have belonged to a warrior chief.  As Mayo excavated further she came across the remains of a boy wearing the regalia of a chief —a breastplate and two cuffs that covered wrists crossed beneath a tiny chin.

Later on, she made a second finding – the skeleton of young boy wearing gold arm cuffs, lying near the remains of a supreme chief, possibly the boy’s father. Genetic testing is underway to determine whether the two bodies are in fact related.  But all evidence is pointing towards the conclusion that wealth and power was passed down from father to son, which would indicate a more sophisticated society than once believed.

By April Holloway

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