New discovery provides evidence for inherited power, points to complex culture.
Archaeologist Julia Mayo works at a site called El Caño near the Pacific coast 90 miles southwest of Panama City. During five years of excavation, she has uncovered the burials of gold-laden chiefs from a still-unnamed civilization that flourished for several centuries before the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s.
Now she can say how the chiefs got their power.
The Spanish conquistadores who described this region told of great chiefs who warred almost constantly among themselves, leading their armies into battle to acquire territory and capture enemy warriors who would serve as their slaves.
But how did those leaders move into a position of authority? Did they earn power through years of fierce fighting? Did they have to defeat the ruling chief? Or was power passed down through the generations of a dynasty? Read more.
Archaeologists working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama have discovered a cluster of 12 unusual stones in the back of a small, prehistoric rock-shelter near the town of Boquete. The cache represents the earliest material evidence of shamanistic practice in lower Central America.
Ruth Dickau, Leverhulme Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Exeter in England, unearthed the cache of stones in the Casita de Piedra rock-shelter in 2007. A piece of charcoal found directly underneath the cache was radiocarbon dated to 4,800 years ago. A second fragment of charcoal in a level above the cache was dated to 4,000 years ago.
"There was no evidence of a disturbance or pit feature to suggest someone had come along, dug a hole and buried the stones at a later date," Dickau said. "The fact that the stones were found in a tight pile suggests they were probably deposited inside a bag or basket, which subsequently decomposed." Read more.
ST. CROIX, US Virgin Islands — For the third year in a row, with the help of the Captain Morgan brand, a team of leading U.S. archaeologists returned to the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama in search of real-life buccaneer Captain Henry Morgan’s lost fleet.
"Morgan was one of the most infamous privateers of all time, so for me, this is a chance to use archaeological research to bridge the gap between science and pop culture. Most people associate Captain Morgan with spiced rum, but he was also an iconic historical figure who accomplished incredible feats throughout the Caribbean," said Frederick "Fritz" H. Hanselmann, underwater archaeologist and Research Faculty with the River Systems Institute and the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University who has been leading the team in an effort to locate, excavate and preserve the remains of Morgan’s lost ships.
"Locating his lost ships and being able to properly preserve and share them with the public is our ultimate goal with this project. We’re really close – and at the end of the day, his ships are down there and we’re going to find them."
The search began in September 2010, when the team discovered six iron cannons belonging to Morgan off the coast of Panama, and continued last summer with the discovery of a 17th century wooden shipwreck, potentially one of the five ships Morgan lost – which included his flagship “Satisfaction” – in 1671 on the shallow Lajas Reef. Read more.
Newfound tombs in Central America are yielding thousand-year-old gold, gems, and even hints of murder by pufferfish. But the real treasure is the excavation’s clues to the unnamed civilization of the so-called golden chiefs of Panama, archaeologists say.
"It’s really a very spectacular find. … probably the most significant" for this culture since the 1930s, when the nearby Sitio Conte site, also in central Panama, yielded a wealth of gold artifacts, anthropologist John Hoopes said.
Until now, Sitio Conte provided the only major evidence of the golden-chiefs culture, which can be traced from about A.D. 250 to the 16th century, when Spanish conquerors arrived on the scene.
Dating to between A.D. 700 and 1000, the new artifacts were excavated about two miles (three kilometers) from Sitio Conte, at a site called El Caño. Read more.
IF JIMMY HOFFA were a pirate, Pat Croce would have found his body by now.
What you might not know about Croce, the hard-charging former 76ers president, physical therapist, TV commentator, motivational speaker, writer and entrepreneur, is that he’s also a hard-core “pirate aficionado.”
And he just discovered Sir Francis Drake’s burnt shipwrecks off the coast of Panama - a monumental breakthrough in underwater archaeology that solves a 400-year-old mystery.
"Explorers have been trying to do this stuff forever, and here I am, a homeboy from Philadelphia in the Caribbean and we score!" Croce told the Daily News last night. “It’s pretty wild.” Read more.
NORWALK, Conn., Aug. 4, 2011 — A team of leading U.S. archaeologists have discovered the wreckage of a ship they believe to be part of Captain Henry Morgan's lost fleet at the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama.
Near the Lajas Reef, where Morgan lost five ships in 1671, including his flagship “Satisfaction,” the team uncovered roughly 52x22 feet of the starboard side of a wooden ship’s hull and a series of unopened cargo boxes and chests encrusted in coral. The artifacts were buried deep beneath a thick layer of sand and mud.
The underwater research team, comprised of leading archaeologists and divers from Texas State University, including volunteers from the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center and NOAA/UNC-Wilmington's Aquarius Reef Base, located the shipwreck with the help of a magnetometer survey, an underwater archaeological technique used to locate anomalies in the magnetic field below the surface of the water. Read more.