Wednesday, 26 September 2018

New research on Ancient Burials in Panama

In 1954, archaeologist Samuel Lothrop described an ancient burial site he'd excavated in Panama. Hacking, mutilation, sacrifice, people buried alive, cannibalism, flesh stripped from bones, decapitation for the purpose of trophy-taking - it was all there. The only trouble is the evidence for it doesn't exist. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have conducted a review of the remains and concluded that the bones show no evidence of trauma at or near the time of death.
The cemetery at Playa Venado, or Venado Beach dates to between 550 and 850 CE. Lothrop recovered 202 skeletons and grave goods, with 167 skeletons recovered by others at later times. Lothrop's evidence for perimortem violence - occurring around the time of death - was focused on the manner in which the bones were found. Open mouths, he said, were evidence of having been buried alive. Such thinking is ridiculous. Almost no evidence of perimortem violence was found.