A recent excavation at the El Caño archaeological park in the province of Coclé has unearthed the remains of a powerful ruler of the region and a spectacular funerary assemblage composed of gold pieces, ceramics, and other materials.

The discovery, made this summer by a team from the Ministry of Culture and the El Caño Foundation, promises to shed new light on the flourishing pre-Hispanic lordship of Río Grande.

Linette Montenegro, the National Heritage Director of the Ministry of Culture, explained that the campaign is part of a multi-year project initiated in 2022 to explore the indigenous cemetery at the archaeological site. The work has been made possible through an agreement between both institutions.

In addition to numerous ceramic vessels typical of funerary assemblages of the time, the team found exceptional goldsmith pieces such as 5 pectorals, 2 belts of spherical gold beads, 4 bracelets, 3 earrings with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic shapes, necklaces, plates, and gold bells.

Bracelets made from dog teeth, earrings made from sperm whale teeth with gold sheaths, and bone flutes were also recovered.

Julia Mayo, director of the El Caño Foundation and project leader since 2008, determined that the objects likely belonged to a prominent adult male from the cacique of Río Grande, buried around the year 750 AD.

The tomb has not yet been fully excavated, but it is believed that the individual was buried face down on top of a woman, a common practice among the elites of the time. It is probable that other sacrificed individuals accompany him to serve him in the afterlife.

El Caño functioned as a cemetery and ceremonial area between 700 and 1000 AD. In addition to the famous monoliths, it housed wooden structures and mausoleums for rulers and their courts.

According to Mayo, these collective tombs usually contained between 8 and 32 bodies corresponding to dignitaries buried alongside sacrificed servants during the funeral.

The exceptional state of preservation of the materials and the opportunity to study in detail such aristocratic funerary practices confer enormous significance to the discovery.

The pre-Columbian treasure and future analysis of the skeletal remains will undoubtedly enrich our knowledge of the pre-Hispanic societies of the isthmus.


Sources

Ministerio de Cultura de Panamá


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