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Panama cave yields 5,000-year cache of 'shaman' stones

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Stones used in shamanic rituals have been uncovered by archaeologists in Panama. A dozen rocks of various shapes and sizes have been uncovered in the Casita de Piedra rock shelter located in the Isthmus of Panama. The stones are believed to be the earliest material evidence of shamanic rituals in that part of Central America, according to researchers.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Archaeologists estimate that the items have remained hidden from view inside a cave for nearly 5,000 years.

Charcoal found directly underneath the stone stash in the back of a small, prehistoric cave was carbon-dated to 4,800 years ago. A second fragment of charcoal above the stones was dated to 4,000 years ago, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama reported this week.

The finds were published online last month in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

The 12 rocks were found clustered tightly together. The grouping suggests that several millenniums ago the stones were brought by a healer or shaman in a bag, which has long since disintegrated.

The shelter where the rocks were found has been known to researchers since the 1seventies.

Archaeologist at the University of Exeter in the UK Ruth Dickau in 2006 took another look at the location and determined that contrary to previously held assumptions, it had been used by people as a shed for cooking and tool-making for over 9,000 years.

It was during a dig at the site Dickau found the mysterious pile of stones, among them translucent quartz, pyrite and magnetic rocks.

Some of the specimens contained grains of iron and showed magnetic properties by deflecting a compass needle.

Study co-author and consulting geologist Stewart Redwood said in a statement that the shamanic stones originated from a remote, gold-rich region of Panama known as the Central Cordillera up to 3,000 years before gold prospecting began there.

"We will never be entirely sure how the ancient people used the stones in the past," Dickau wrote.

Shamans in modern day Costa Rica chant and blow tobacco smoke over crystals to make contact with spirits or diagnose an illness.



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