Archaeological find in Panama emerges as most important in the Americas

A remote site located in the town of El Caño, west of Panama City, is home to what might be the most important archaeological treasure of America, of equal or greater value than the discovery of the splendid tomb of the Lord of Sipán in northern Peru in 1987.

It is a funeral or burial complex, with a series of pre-Columbian chiefs and high-ranking warriors who were buried amid numerous gold articles and garments, copper, and emeralds, that was recovered by excavations that began in 2008.

Dated approximately 700 to 1,000 years old, the cemetery is found in the El Caño Archaeological Park in the central province of Coclé, 150 kilometers west of the capital.

Efe witnessed the work of archaeologists who took advantage of the dry season to continue unearthing the burial site, since the rain slows everything down and the tombs get inundated by floodwaters from the Río Grande.

Nevertheless, the discovery announced by National Geographic in Spanish about two years ago has generated high expectations among the team of researchers coordinated by Panamanian archaeologist Julia Mayo, and they have motivated the Spanish filmmaker José Manuel Novoa to start filming a documentary on the subject.

The idea that this El Caño archaeological find could become one of the most important in Latin America fills Mayo and Novoa with optimism, although both stress that much remains to be excavated.

Mayo told Efe that the excavations that resumed in February and will end in April are opening a new grave with the "same category, importance, and dimensions" as the "Double Bird", which was a high-ranking war chief.

Mayo and a group of experts initiated the excavation in 2006 in an area measuring ​​about 5,000 square meters, but it wasn't until 2008 and 2009 that they had their first findings.

This culture had not yet been contextualized, and this has been brought to light with excavations of hundreds of graves situated in a necropolis destined for the burial of high-ranking persons.

The cemetery discovered was used for approximately 300 years.

Novoa did not hesitate in declaring that, for both the economic and historical value of the pieces, treasures, regalia, and bones from the graves, the discovery could reach or exceed the importance of the Lord of Sipán.

The filmmaker said that disseminating this finding through a documentary will make Panama known for something that is "unique in all of Latin America."

"Those of us who have spent years making archaeological (film) productions are here for something, because this is perfectly comparable to the Lord of Sipán in Peru (_), which up until now have been considered the richest tombs in America. Here (in El Caño) we'll see what will come out," indicated Novoa.

Novoa clarified that, more than gold and emeralds, the value of this discovery lies in the "wealth of information and the richness of the study."

In that regard, he explained that for his documentary on El Caño, which he hopes to complete by September 2015, he is interested in "everything" and has already filmed the "most important pieces" that have been extracted in recent years.

His producer Wanda Films and the Panamanian Jaguar Films are involved in the documentary, as well as the archaeologist Julia Mayo, the El Caño Foundation, and National Geographic, which has been funding the excavations.

Filming will be done with high-definition cinematography technology to document not only the work of archaeologists, but also a dramatized segment with three or four main actors and 350 to 400 extras who will bring life to the civilization called for now "Coclé Culture" that inhabited the dig area.

There will also be 3D computer projections to explain to the viewer in a simple manner information on the tombs as well as virtual scenarios.

Novoa, with 35 years experience, has filmed seven documentaries on Peru, the most recent about "The Lady of Cao", a Mochica ruler who lived 1,700 years ago, and the Moche Route, which depicts the region of northern Peru settled by that civilization.

Source: Telemetro Reporta