GENERICO.ruScienceThe tomb of an ancient ruler found filled with gold and the bodies of victims

The tomb of an ancient ruler found filled with gold and the bodies of victims

A large group was sent to the next world with the Lord of the Flutes

Excavations at an archaeological site in Panama have revealed the grave of an ancient religious leader buried more than 1,200 years ago, next to a cache of gold objects and numerous human remains.

A large company was sent to the next world with the Lord of the Flutes Photo: Ministerio de Cultura de Panamá

Researchers have discovered an ancient tomb in the El Caño Archaeological Park, a site in Cocle province known as a hotbed of pre-Columbian discoveries, especially luxury burial chambers, CNN reports. According to a March 1 press release from Panama's Ministry of Culture, the newly discovered enclosure, built around 700 years ago, is the ninth tomb discovered in the park since excavations at the site began in 2008.

The tombs, including the most recent ones discovered, are the resting places of people who had higher status in their societies, said Dr. Julia Mayo, director of the excavations and director of the El Caño Foundation, a group that studies Panama's cultural heritage through archaeological site research. The research team believes that the man found lying in the center of the grave had a higher status, as evidenced not only by his physical position, but also by the gold and ceramic artifacts surrounding the body.

The civilization of the region surrounding El Caño at the time treated the site as sacred and worshiped their “ancestors,” meaning those who were remembered for having performed important deeds. “After the death of these people, it was believed that a permanent connection was established between the ancestor and his descendants,” says Dr. Mayo. – Our tomb research highlights the practice of ritual death in funerary rituals associated with higher status.

The newly discovered elite leader was likely a 30- or 40-year-old man whom archaeologists have dubbed the “Lord of the Flutes.” because it was buried next to a set of animal bone flutes that were likely used for religious ceremonies, she added.

And as the researchers continued to explore the grave, they realized that the “Lord of the Flutes” may have had quite a lot of company on his journey to the afterlife – potentially up to several dozen companions, whose remains were found buried under the offerings that surrounded him.

Researchers found similar patterns among the tomb and eight previously studied tombs, suggesting the other bodies belonged to people sacrificed to accompany the dead into the afterlife, Dr Mayo said. All of the newly discovered remains appear to have been buried at the same time and also showed signs of ritual death, she added.

El Caño is divided into two sectors of burial chambers: a high-status sector, Mayo said. , which contains burial chambers containing several bodies, and a low-status sector, where graves contain only one body per grave. Excavations have not yet been completed, so it is unclear how many bodies are in the newly discovered grave, but between eight and 32 bodies have been found in the remaining eight graves.

While other tombs were believed to have contained military leaders, the “Lord of the Flutes” was likely more of a religious leader, as the body was “buried with flutes and bells, rather than, as is the case with other lords found in the same place, with axes, spears and objects made from the teeth of large predators. This draws attention to the importance of religion in this society,” says Mayo.

Excavation of the ninth tomb is expected to be completed by this time next year, CNN notes.

Archaeologists discovered the body of a supposed religious leader buried face down and on top of a woman's body, a press release said. The relationship the man may have had with the woman is unknown, says Dr. Mayo.

“The face-down burial method was common during this time period in this region, but placing the man over the woman was not,” said Nicole Smith-Guzman, curator of archeology at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, via email.

However, she added, other researchers have reported finding human remains more than 1,000 years old buried in a similar location at a nearby site called Sitio Sierra, in the same province as El Caño. Researchers at the time suggested that the couple were husband and wife, but the theory remains unconfirmed.

“However, it is likely that some kind of social relationship existed between the two individuals during life that was important to maintain after death,” says Smith-Guzman.

Among the artifacts found scattered across the top of the burial chamber and surrounding The Lord of the Flutes were five pectorals — a type of decoration for the bib of the deceased — two belts made of gold beads, several gold bracelets and necklaces, as well as two earrings in the form of human figurines and several pieces of jewelry made from animal teeth, including earrings made from the teeth of a sperm whale, the press release said.

< p>These “exotic” the materials were typically interpreted as a leader's life strategies aimed at increasing prestige in his territory, said Ana Maria Navas Mendez, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Illinois. Ancient Latin American chiefs often established political and economic relationships with leaders of nearby communities, allowing jewelry and crafts to be exchanged with each other, she added.

Several artifacts found in the tomb were “stylistically similar to those that were produced in the region of Quimbaya (Colombia),” emphasizes Mayo, adding that this indicates a large interaction and exchange of materials “between populations inhabiting the central region of Panama and northern South America.”

Experts believe El Caño functioned as a regional ceremonial center or necropolis (city of the dead) for elite members of society, Smith-Guzman says.

According to Mayo, there were two attempts — the latest one in 2021 — to find out who once belonged to the various tombs found at the El Caño excavation site. But neither effort has yielded any DNA from human bones, most likely because the region's hot, humid climate is not ideal for preservation, she added.

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