The 2 volume book "El Cano:Memorias de Excavacion"
Our new book "El Caño": Memorias de Excavación" arrived at the Fundación laboratory on December 31st. The book documents our investigations and efforts to preserve the necroplis since 2008. Team members were on hand to receive the 1000 copies of the book that were printed. Prior to the books arriving, the public was able to reserve copies. Once the books had arrived, the team prepared the reserved orders for delivery. A new online store had been created where people are able to purchase the book and arrange for delivery, even in other countries. Additional items, such as DVDs of the documentary “The Mystery of the Cocle Culture: The El Dorado of Panama” are also available at the on line store: https://www.fundacionelcano.org/shop.
Fundación El Caño was contacted by the Reich Ancient DNA Laboratory at Harvard University Medical School about a project they are conducting to map the genetic history of mankind worldwide. The laboratory is currently focusing on the area of the world that includes Panamá. They invited the Fundación to participate in the project. The Reich Laboratory had developed a method of extracting DNA from the cochlea, which is a portion of a bone in the inner ear. In the course of their project, Reich Laboratory had determined the petrous bone preserves the DNA very well. The inner portion of these bones and the cement layer in the roots of the teeth are currently recognized as the best substrates for ancient DNA research. Both substrates show significantly higher endogenous DNA content (average 16.4% and 40.0% for teeth and petrosal bones, respectively) than the parietal skull bone (average 2.2%).
To date the Fundación El Caño has been unable to extract viable DNA from the samples taken from El Caño and so were happy to be able to participate in this project. Samples of the pars petrosa (portion of the human skull's temporalis also known as the petrosal bone) were selected from tombs T4 and T7 and sent to the Reich Laboratory.
Team members are also continuing research in other areas. For some months now they have been conducting research on the dental pathologies identified in the teeth recovered from tombs T1, T2, T4 and T7 of the Necropolis of El Caño. This study will identify the different existing pathologies and compare the differences observed in the different tombs, as well as those that may exist in the teeth of the main individuals (high status) and the companions (low status).
The efforts to preserve and conserve the materials recovered from El Caño continue. The raw materials of the artifacts recovered at the necropolis are stone, gold and copper, bone, fired clay, shell and resin. Their state of preservation depends on the nature of the material itself and also on the time they have been buried, their degree of exposure during most of the year to an acidic and humid environment with occasional humidity peaks, as well as the pressure of a terrain made up of expansive clays characterized by large changes in volume according to their humidity load. In addition, some were damaged by unnatural processes of anthropic origin during funerary rituals.
The large ceramics and dishes were found fragmented practically in their entirety, although all of them are complete and preserved their original geometry, which facilitates their reconstruction. The smaller ones in many cases were found whole. In general, their paints and engobes were found in good condition.
In the laboratory the team is continuing to care for and preserve the artifacts. They are dry cleaned using bamboo sticks. Then deionized water and absorbent cotton is used. We stop cleaning if we notice that we remove paint or engobe during the process. If it is broken, its fragments are consolidated (consolidation serves to prevent the fragments from breaking into smaller fragments) and glued using resins diluted in industrial acetone. First, the edges are vigorously brushed (cleaning). Then the pieces are soaked with a very diluted solution of B-72 with acetone (consolidation). To glue them, B-72 is used for small fragments and B-48N for larger and heavier ones. When finished, the artifacts are all stored in plastic boxes with Ethafoam and bubble wrap.
The El Caño Archaeological Park and Museum was recently reopened when the restrictions due to the pandemic were lifted. Carlos Mayo, with help from Alcides Castrellón, completed some maintenance of the museum exhibit cases and cleaned artifacts prior to opening to the public.
As part of Fundación El Caño´s on going efforts to share the story of El Caño and its importance, in January Doctor Julia Mayo participated in an Instagram Live interview hosted by Café Antropológico. During this live event the general public was able to message questions and have them answered in real time by Dr. Mayo.
In November, Dr. Julia Mayo was recognized by TrowelBlazers, an organization that celebrates women archaeologists, paleontologists and geologists who have been doing awesome work for far longer, and in far greater numbers, than most people realize. You can read more about her recognition at Trowel Blazers
Selecting the pars petrosa to send for DNA tests
Examples of pathologies in teeth being studied
Conserving and preserving artifacts
Maintenance on the exhibit cases in El Cano
Cleaning artifacts prior to museum reopening
Preparing sold books for shipping