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Since the initial excavation, however, most of the items have left Panama—today most are placed in museums across the U. According to archeologists, it may have been used as a playfield or ceremonial area.

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The communities remained autonomous and widely scattered, perhaps due to the rugged and often impassable terrain that surrounded them.Set near the town of Penonomé, Sitio Conte is one of the most famous pre-Columbian archaeological sites in the Americas. Harvard archeologists excavated here and dug up some 60 graves, 1,000 gold ornaments, ceramic pottery, and stonework. It’s located on a private farm and is not open to the public.It wasn’t discovered, however, until the early 20th century when the Río Grande shifted course and washed up gold artifacts on the surrounding riverbank. One of the biggest finds was the tomb of a chief who was buried with 22 sacrificial companions and a mountain of gold. Not far from here is another site near the tiny town of Natá, Parque Arqueológico del Caño, which dates back to 800-1,100 A. The original site was ringed with large stone columns shaped like animals and humans.Even so, our understanding of the people that built them is weak; many of Panama’s archeological sites have been damaged or robbed over the last few centuries.In Panama (as in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica), dispersed villages were the norm.Most were carted off by an American in the 1920s and taken to museums in the U. Other vestiges of ancient civilizations in Panama include petroglyphs carved into stone.

Some can still be seen near El Valle, Penonomé, and Boquete.

Arrowheads found near Lago Alajuela (Madden Lake) in the Panama Canal point to human habitation around 9,000 B.

C., and there are traces of agriculture along Panama’s central Pacific coast that date back to 5,000 B. Several sites along the Azuero Peninsula, including Monagrillo, have yielded a large amount of ceramic pottery that is thought to be from 2,500 B. These ceramics are, in fact, some of the oldest pottery ever found in the Americas.

The Panamanian people of today are a cogent, colorful, and vital link to Panama’s past—and their story forms the backbone in the history of this small but very important isthmus.

According to archaeologists, humans lived in Panama as early as 12,000 B. and primarily used the country as a way to get between North and South America.

For over six centuries, foreign nations have viewed Panama as a place to find wealth or transport goods.