Guns, Shipwrecks, and Investigations of Spanish Colonial Trade and Privateering in the 17th Century: The Chagres River Maritime Borderland, Panamá
For more than 500 years, Panamá’s Chagres River has been a nexus for maritime activity. The river served as the original trans-isthmian passage between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean where precious metals, gems, and other commodities were transported in support of Spain’s empire and mercantilist policies. The wealth created by this trade led to the establishment of Spanish cities, ports, and fortifications on either side of the isthmus protecting the maritime borderland of Spanish holdings from the rest of the world. Panamá City became a strategic and geographic focal point connecting the Caribbean and the Pacific and the promise of wealth attracted many to seek their fortunes in this borderland. In 1670, the English privateer Henry Morgan amassed the largest fleet of privateers and pirates in the history of the Caribbean to attack Panamá and disrupt Spain’s trade network. Using the Chagres River to cross the isthmus, he sacked Panamá City and dealt a substantial blow to Spain’s control in the New World. Recent archaeological investigations have resulted in the study and interpretation of material culture related to Morgan’s lost ships and a shipwreck whose remains and cargo symbolize Spain’s economic hegemony within this maritime borderland.
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This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
- Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015) •
- Trade, exchange, production and consumption in pre-Columbian and colonial Lower Central America (Panama Nicaragua and Costa Rica)
Cite this Record
Guns, Shipwrecks, and Investigations of Spanish Colonial Trade and Privateering in the 17th Century: The Chagres River Maritime Borderland, Panamá. Frederick Hanselmann, Christopher Horrell, Melanie Damour-Horrell, Bert Ho. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396154)
min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;