The original inhabitants were wandering bands of Paleo-Indians who began passing through the Panamanian isthmus about 10,000 BC. They slept in the open or under extremely simple and very temporary shelters. Between 8000-5000 BC, people began to live in caves and rock shelters on a temporary basis, but otherwise their lives were pretty much like their predecessors. Then, between 5000-2900 BC, the population migrated from the center of the isthmus to rock shelters along the coasts. Food caught in the sea or gathered along the shore became a major part of their daily diet. Grinding stones appeared during this time, suggesting more sophisticated food preparation techniques. Major changes began to occur between 2900-300 BC. The earliest ceramics yet found in Central America date to 2500 BC. They were found at the Monagrillo archaeological site, about 90 miles down the coast from Panamá Viejo. The presence of ceramics indicates the existence of permanent settlements. Only those living in a fixed site will find heavy and easily-broken clay pots useful, or will have the time to make them. Also found at Monagrillo was the earliest evidence of maiz (corn) cultivation, dating to 1500 BC. This marks the beginning of an economy based on agriculture, with the population now living in small, dispersed villages. This was a momentous change.
graves of what appear to be hereditary chieftains, an important step in the development of complex societies. Craftsmen developed highly specialized tools for making luxury items such as gold jewelry. Elaborate burial rituals for elite members of the society sometimes included the sacrifice of slaves or war captives.
extensive trade routes that ran from Peru to Mexico and up into what is now the Southwestern United States.
tomb of a woman who died in the 13th Century AD. She was laid to rest on a bed of skulls, with nine additional skulls surrounding her.
Music and dancing
Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panamá, and Colombia, "...masked dancers do not simply "become" or transform into the personages whose costumes they wear. The relationship is much more complex and subtle. By wearing the mask, the dancer becomes "in agreement with" the deity or dueño, becoming his brother or his equal, and as a member of the deity 's family, is in a position to mediate between the community and the ancestral or supernatural world."
Art and culture
dominance of a warrior ethos. For archaeologists, ceramic objects are some of their most important finds. The shapes of the vessels and their styles of decoration help identify the culture that produced them and the time period in which the piece was created. When other objects are found in close proximity to an identified ceramic piece, their chronological and cultural identification can also be established. This is why the practice of "pot-hunting" is so destructive to our understanding of the past. Objects are often removed from their original context by thieves and sold to collectors interested only in their innate beauty. The removal process is usually careless and always undocumented. This may destroy our ability understand the cultural and historical significance not only of the object itself, but of everything around it. Pot-hunting can cause an irretrievable loss of a piece of human history.
This completes Part 1 of my Panamá series. I hope you have enjoyed it. If so, and you would like to leave a comment, please do so in the Comments section below, or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim