Archaeologists working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama have found a set of 12 stones quite unusual in the back of a small prehistoric rock shelter near the Boquete district, in the Chiriquí province. These objects represent the earliest evidence of the shamanic practice in the lower part of Central America.
Ruth Dickau, who has developed a Leverhume post-doctorate at the University of Exter in England, discovered in 2007 this group of small rocks in the Casita de Piedra, one of the two archaeological sites in the province that correspond to the first period of thePre-Columbian History, located in some rocky shelters near the canyon floor of the Chiriquí River. According to Carbon 14 tests, a piece of coal found just below the stone cluster dates back 4,800 years, and a second coal fragment located at a level above the stone cluster has been dated to 4,000 years.
«There was no evidence of a characteristic alteration or pit to suggest that someone dug a hole and buried the stones at a later dateDickau commented. «The fact that the stones were found in a tight heap suggests that they were probably deposited inside a bag or basket, which eventually decomposed»He added.
Based on theunusual location and composition of the stonesRichard Cooke, a STRI scientist, suggested the possibility that they had been used by a shaman or healer. For his part, the geologist Stewart Redwood determined that the set consists of a small dacite stone with a cylindrical shape, a small white flake, a translucent quartz, a quartz leaf and jarosite aggregate, an aggregate quartz crystal. , several pyrite nodules showing evidence of human use, a small weathered and eroded piece of chalcedony, a magnetic andesite flake, a large chalcedony stone, and a small natural kaolinite magnetic stone eroded in an unusual shape, similar to a flower .
«A fascinating aspect of this find is that these are not common stones, but are rocks and crystals commonly associated with gold deposits in the Central Cordillera of Panama and Central America.«Redwood stated. «However, there are no gold artifacts in the shelter, and there is no evidence that the stones were collected in the course of prospecting for gold as the age of the set predates the earliest known gold artifacts from Panama by more than 2,000 years. But whoever assembled this cluster of ridges had a keen eye for selecting strange stones and crystals with a special appearance, the meaning of which has been lost to us.«.
Indigenous groups that lived near this site include the Ngäbe, Buglé, Bribri, Cabecar, and the now-extinct Doras peoples.Shamans or healers that belonged to these groups and even more current ones, include strange stones among the objects they use for ritual practices. For example, stones that contain crystalline structures are linked to experiences of transformation.
Anthony Ranere of theTemple university in Philadelphia, he was the first to excavate and identify the Stone House during an archaeological survey of western Panama in the 1970s. In his investigations he found that the small rock shelter had been repeatedly occupied for thousands of years and had been used for a wide variety of domestic activities, such as food processing and cooking, stone tool making and even carpentry work.
Later,Dickau returned to the site to expand the December excavations from 2006 to January 2007. Dickau's team conducted radiocarbon tests at various levels of the refuge and discovered that the Stone House was first occupied 9,000 years ago, long before Ranere originally proposed.