Gold pendant found in tomb.
Recently found tombs in Central America are providing new clues about the “golden chiefs of Panama,” a mysterious, unnamed civilization.
"It's really a very spectacular find, probably the most significant" for this culture since the 1930s, when the nearby Sitio Conte site, also in central Panama, yielded a wealth of gold artifacts, anthropologist John Hoopes tells National Geographic. Until now, Sitio Conte provided the only major evidence of the golden-chiefs culture, which can be traced from about A.D. 250 to the 16th century, when Spanish conquerors arrived on the scene.
Dated between A.D. 700 and 1000, the new artifacts were excavated two miles from Sitio Conte, at a site called El Caño. A few years ago, archaeologist Julia Mayo of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute decided to reinvestigate El Caño. Not long after digging had begun, in 2008, the team uncovered the skeleton of a high-ranking chief, clad in circular breastplates embossed with ghoulish faces, patterned arm cuffs, and a belt of large golden beads.
The most recent dig, in early 2011, uncovered a similarly adorned chief in a multilevel burial pit once sheltered by a wooden roof. Surrounding this golden chief are at least 25 carefully arranged bodies, making the assemblage the largest of the six El Caño burials revealed to date, according to National Geographic.