5,000-Year-Old Shaman Stones Discovered in Panama Cave

First Posted: Jan 21, 2013 09:59 AM EST

Archaeologists from the University of Exeter have unearthed nearly 5,000-year-old shaman's stones of various shapes and sizes from the Casita de Piedra rock shelter in Panama.

Located in the Isthmus of Panama, the dozens of stones that were found clustered tightly together are the early evidence of shamanic rituals in that part of Central America, said a statement according to the researchers. Based on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama report, the prehistoric cave was carbon-dated between 4,000 to 4,800 years old.

"There was no evidence of a disturbance or pit feature to suggest someone had come along, dug a hole and buried the stones at a later date. The fact that the stones were found in a tight pile suggests they were probably deposited inside a bag or basket, which subsequently decomposed," Ruth Dickau, an archaeologist at the University of Exeter, said in a press statement.

This rock shelter was first discovered in 1970. In 2006, it was believed that this cave was used by people as a shed for cooking and tool-making for over 9,000 years, after an archaeologist Ruth Dickau analyzed the structure.

It was during this investigation that she found these mysterious stones that contained translucent quartz, pyrite and magnetic rocks. A few had some iron grains and also had magnetic properties. There were both carved and uncarved stones.

According to the study co-author Stewart Redwood, the stones belonged to the Central Cordillera. It came 3000 years ago before the mining process began.

"However, there are no gold artifacts in the rock shelter, and there's no evidence that the stones were collected in the course of gold prospecting as the age of the cache pre-dates the earliest known gold artifacts from Panama by more than 2,000 years," Redwood was quoted in a press statement.

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