Travel just 160 kilometers to the southwest of Panama City to discover one of Panama’s most important archeological sites. First discovered in 1925, the site at El Caño wasn’t formally investigated until the 1970’s, and even then, researchers were only scratching the surface. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that a team led by archeologist Julia Mayo launched a formal re-investigation into the El Caño site. What did they find? Several extensive burial grounds uncovering the existence of a pre-Colombian civilization that may have lived in the area between 700-1000 AD. This epic discovery has been widely reported by National Geographic, and remains part of ongoing archeological research that you can observe for yourself!
A lot of mystery still surrounds the ancient population that was discovered at El Caño, but specialists have uncovered artefacts that speak to a rich system of iconography, sophisticated gold-working technology and an elaborate hierarchy—as evidenced by their exacting burial placements. In fact, in 2011, Mayo and her team uncovered the body of a warrior chief adorned with gold artifacts while laying atop 25 specifically arranged bodies. Intricate burial sites like this one are crucial in helping scientists understand the hierarchical chiefdom-based societies created by pre-Colombian people of this region.
When you visit, you’ll get to walk along several paths through the archeological sites, including the 2011 burial pit where the warrior chief was discovered. That particular area is now covered by a building for protection. In addition, some skeletons have been placed back into the burial pit, allowing visitors to get a better sense of what it was like to discover them first hand. For more information, you can also visit the nearby visitor center and museum, or hire a tour.
El Caño Archaeological Park is a 2.5 hour drive from Panama City in the Province of Coclé, and it’s easily accessible by car. There are a variety of tours to the site that include transportation from the city.