Drill manufactured specifically for boreholes
Since the excavation season ended, the El Caño Foundation (FEC-CIAI) has undertaken a series of tasks leading to the analysis and conservation of materials that is expected to be completed in December. With respect to the analysis of materials, work is being carried out on a project called PATMA (Traceological Analysis of Archaeological Materials Project), whose purpose is to analyze the manufacturing traces (marks) on the objects found in El Caño to determine the tools and techniques used in their manufacture.
The FEC-CIAI acquired two Dino-Lite digital microscopes, two illuminators, and two stands in order to conduct this project. The handheld digital microscopes with a built-in coaxial light, meet the needs of brightfield observation with superior image quality at 700~900x magnification. By using the flexible LED control (FLC), they can not only switch between brightfield and darkfield freely, but also mix the fields to have more possibilities to highlight details. In addition, this microscope offers automatic magnification readouts (AMR), designed to optimize the measurement.
The project is aimed at locating and characterizing the manufacturing traces of the objects from El Caño in order to characterize and recognize technological styles and therefore the human group or groups that produced them. This type of study is based on the assumption that the use of a particular work tool, made of a certain material, used in a specific way and under certain conditions, will leave well-defined features which are different from those made by other tools.
Four techniques are being used: Refractive Transformed Imaging (RTI), Optical Microscopy, Digital Microscopy, Microphotogrammetry and the technique known as Secondary and Electro-scattered Eletrons (SE/BSE). All four techniques were used in a study of worked sperm whale teeth recovered from tombs in the El Caño necropolis conducted by two interns. The interns, Katherine and Arturo, are both working on their master´s degree in anthropology.
A second project is an Experimental Archaeology Project (PAE), which consists of simulating the way archaeological artifacts may have been made by experimenting with different materials, tools and manufacturing techniques. The two projects go hand in hand because an important part in the recognition of traces and technological styles is the comparison of archaeological traces with experimental traces. The PAE involves studying the behavioral processes of the material remains of the past, through an experimental reconstruction, so that hypotheses can be extracted for subsequent contrast with archaeological data. Research through experimentation is based on simulation, that is, the realization of a series of activities oriented to the verification or observation of anthropic or recreated processes on materials that simulate situations, events or processes of these past societies.
Using these techniques, FEC aims to learn about the raw materials used by ancient Cocle artisans in the decoration of ceramics. The research focuses the analysis on the pigments used in the decoration of the beautiful polychromatic ceramics found in the archaeological site of El Caño dated between 700 and 1520 AD. The results of this research, in addition to providing data on the origin of the pigments, will yield valuable information on the origin of the pigments and on the importance of ceramics in the economy of the ancient chiefdoms of Río Grande, Cocle.
As part of the PATMA -PAE, we drilled a fragment of fired pottery using a hand drill on the tip of which was placed a chalcedony flake that was previously carved to give it an elongated and pointed shape. It was drilled on one side only, so the resulting perforation has a conical section.
In addition to working on the PATMA and PAE projects, the El Caño Foundation team continued to on share the information pertaining to their research with the general public. On June 20, 2022, Dr. Carlos Mayo participated in the seminar "Natá 500 Years after its Foundation", organized by the University of Panama Coclé Regional University. He presented the segment "Much More than 500 Years of History: Notes on Pre-Hispanic Natá".
On August 9, Arturo, student at the School of Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities at the University of Panama,, defended his thesis "The technological styles of worked sperm whale teeth found in the necropolis of El Caño, Antiguo Coclé (750 A.D. - 1100 A.D.)". This was open to the general public.
James, a student at the School of Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities at the University of Panama, and Dr. Carlos Mayo of the El Caño Foundation, have published a preliminary study of the manufacturing processes of El Caño ceramics in the journal Contacto titled "Preliminary study of the manufacturing processes in archaeological ceramic samples from El Caño by means of radiological imaging".
Sperm whale tooth under microscope
Katherine and Arturo working on sperm whale tooth
Analyzing materials in ceramics from El Cano
Conical hole made by hand drill in PAE project
Dr. Carlos Mayo presenting at the university
Arturo with Dr. Julia Mayo after his presentation