Carlos Mayo defending his doctoral thesis.
When the Fundación El Caño-Center of Archaeological Investigations of the Isthmus (FEC-CIAI) team is not working in the archaeological site, they work in the laboratory of the foundation, located in the City of Knowledge, Clayton. The time is used to conserve artifacts and conduct research related to the field work and findings that have been uncovered in the previous field seasons. Due to the pandemic, no field season was conducted in 2021.
As offices and schools have begun reopening, members the FEC-CIAI team have taken the opportunity to work on professional and educational projects, both projects of their own and advising students on projects they are working on for their university degrees.
In June, Carlos Mayo, co-director of the El Caño Archaeological Project and brother of Doctor Julia Mayo, successfully defended his doctoral thesis, "Craft specialization in Ancient Coclé (780-1020 A.D.): stylistic ascription and standardization analysis of ceramics from El Caño", from the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela. With the quantity of ceramics that have been recovered from El Caño, it has been invaluable to have a member of the team who specialized in the study of these works of art.
Two students from the University of Panamá, Arturo and James, have been working at the lab with Drs. Julia and Carlos Mayo as their advisors on their undergraduate projects. They join Yadixa, an anthropology student at the University of Panamá working on her graduate program and Katherinne, a student at the Autonomous University of Chiriquí completing her undergraduate project, in advancing their Anthropology academic studies through a partnership with FEC-CIAI.
Arturo has begun work on a project to characterize and analyze the manufacturing traces of carved sperm whale teeth from the necropolis of El Caño. In the coming months, he will characterize the manufacturing traces to learn about the manufacturing techniques and tools used. This will enable him to identify technical gestures, procedures and tools used, and also to recognize the workshop or workshops of origin.
The technique he is using to record the marks is known as Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). RTI is based on the principle of light contrast whereby, when light is projected from different angles onto an object, its shapes, including the marks left by the tools used in its manufacture, and create shadows that enhance its relief.
This technique consists of making high-resolution images using a digital camera which is fixed on a tripod vertically focused on the object, and a flash, or powerful light, which must be placed at different points in a constant radius around it. A sphere or two is placed next to the object, which reflects the position of the light and spatial information. The photos taken will then be processed in order to create a single RTI image using the RTBuilder-v2.02 software, a free software created by the Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) association. The objects will be analyzed using the RTI images and the RTIViewer software. The tripod and 100 mm macro lens that Arturo is using was purchased with funds from the National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation (SENACYT).
James is doing his undergraduate work analyzing the manufacturing techniques used by the Coclé potters between the eighth and tenth centuries. The novel study method used by James is based on the macroscopic and mesoscopic analysis of the traces generated by potters during the manufacturing process.
James took ceramics to the University of Panamá, School of Dentistry, to do Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) to look at traces of manufacture in a previously selected group of El Caño ceramics to see patterns and the orientation of the patterns or orientations of the pastes' temper. This will allow him to deduce whether the artisans who made these ceramics used the warping or slab technique. The Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Panamá worked with James in the utilization of the equipment to conduct the CBCT.
Physical anthropologist Alexa Hancock, FEC-CIAI team member, is continuing her research into the dental morphologies and pathologies of the people interred in tombs T1, T2, T4 and T7 of El Caño. She is working with Dr. Jesús Herrerín, another physical anthropologist and FEC-CIAI member. Alexa is also going to be utilizing the same RTI method Arturo is using to document the pathologies of interest that have been identified.
Recently the FEC-CIAI created a YouTube channel. The idea is to share educational and information videos related to the work being conducted by the team. This channel is available to the general public and periodically will have new videos added.
The Ministry of Culture renewed the agreement with FEC-CIAI for another five years. This renewal will include some funding but unfortunately due to the pandemic, the economy in Panamá has been hurt and did not allow for full funding as needed to continue the preservation and investigation of the El Caño Archaeological Park and Museum as it should be. The plan for 2022 is to complete the excavation of tomb T3 that was begun three years ago. The tomb needs to be fully excavated, documented, and properly closed. Funding will continue to be needed to continue the conservation of the artifacts already recovered, what is recovered from tomb T3, maintain the artifacts that are currently on exhibit in the El Caño museum, and prepare a new exhibit.
Arturo cleaning an artifact beofre taking photos
Arturo taking photos for RTI
Arturo cleaning an artifact beofre taking photos
The results of one CBCT scan on a ceramic