The Bioarchaeology of Greater Chiriquí: Challenges, Finds, and Future Directions

Author(s): Nicole Smith-Guzmán

Year: 2018


Greater Chiriquí, the pre-Columbian cultural sphere encompassing western Panama and southern Costa Rica, has been subjected to intense looting activities since the mid-19th century. Nevertheless, archaeological exploration of the area to date has successfully contextualized the nature and transitions of non-perishable material culture. However, organic remains rarely survive in funerary contexts due to the high acidity of the soil, high humidity, and high precipitation in this region. Human remains almost never remain in the stone-lined tombs of Greater Chiriquí, in which one or more occupants were buried (as evidenced by the number and placement of mortuary offerings). But in shell-bearing middens along the coast, the increased soil pH from high calcium carbonate contents allows better preservation of human and animal bone. These differences in preservation have led to a sharp division in the variety and quality of mortuary information derived from coastal (lowland) and inland (highland) sites. The present study traces the few examples of human remains recovered from archaeological sites in the region and what they tell us about the cultural activities and health of pre-Columbian populations. It will highlight the case of ancient cancer found recently in a 700-year old burial from Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Cite this Record

The Bioarchaeology of Greater Chiriquí: Challenges, Finds, and Future Directions. Nicole Smith-Guzmán. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444941)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -92.153; min lat: -4.303 ; max long: -50.977; max lat: 18.313 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21167