Original Paper

Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 331-349

First online:

A 4,000-year-old shaman’s stone cache at Casita de Piedra, western Panama

  • Ruth DickauAffiliated withDepartment of Archaeology, University of Exeter Email author 
  • , Stewart D. RedwoodAffiliated with
  • , Richard G. CookeAffiliated withSmithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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During new excavations at the preceramic rockshelter of Casita de Piedra in western Panama, a cache of 12 unusual stones was recovered near the back wall, dating to between 4800 and 4000 cal bp. The stones include quartz, pyrite, a chalcedony vein nodule, a bladed quartz and jarosite aggregate and a human-modified dacite cylinder. Based on the unusual lithic types and the context of the cache, we suggest that these stones once belonged to a ritual specialist, such as a healer or shaman. Special stones are frequently mentioned as being an important component of a shaman’s ritual paraphernalia in ethnographic records of various historic Native American groups throughout Central and South America, including the Bribri and Cabécar of southeastern Costa Rica and western Panama (formerly known as the ‘Talamanca’). The cache of stones recovered at Casita de Piedra may represent the earliest material evidence in Central America of shamanistic practice.


Shamanism Archaeology of ritual Stone cache Lithological description Preceramic Bribri Cabécar Panama