Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 331–349 | Cite as

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

  • Ruth DickauEmail author
  • Stewart D. Redwood
  • Richard G. Cooke
Original Paper


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 



Funding was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The communities of Casita de Piedra and Quebrada Seca, Chiriquí, Panama, generously provided hospitality and help during excavation. Fieldwork and permits were facilitated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, and the Departmento del Patrimonio Histórico of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Panama. Lab and logistical support was provided by the Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Anthony J. Ranere for his insights, guidance, and excavation assistance. Thanks to Eduardo Bejerano and Drude Molbo for field assistance, Sonia Zarillo and Scott Raymond at the University of Calgary for helpful discussions, and Yvonne Kjorlien for comments on the manuscript. Initial observations and comments on the cache stones were made by members of the Geology Department at the University of Calgary. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Dickau
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stewart D. Redwood
    • 2
  • Richard G. Cooke
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  2. 2.Panamá CityRepublic of Panamá
  3. 3.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepublic of Panamá

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