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Archaeologists in Panama find ancient tomb filled with gold treasure — and sacrificial victims

Researchers have uncovered an ancient lord's tomb filled with gold treasure —and sacrificial victims— at an archaeological park in Panama, officials revealed on Friday. The tomb, estimated to be about 1,200 years old, marks the area where an elite chief was buried along with possibly dozens of people who died to accompany him to the "beyond," the nation's culture ministry said in a news release.

Inside the grave at El Caño Archaeological Park, scientists discovered an array of gold treasures, including bracelets, two belts made with gold beads, crocodile-shaped earrings, gold-covered sperm whale teeth earrings and circular gold plates. Archaeologists also unearthed earrings in the shape of a man and a woman, two bells, skirts made with dog teeth, and a set of bone flutes.

The grave likely belonged to a high-status chief from the local Coclé culture who was in his 30s, the El Caño Foundation said in a Facebook post. The foundation also posted video of the treasures.

Dr. Julia Mayo, director of the foundation and leader of the archaeological project, said that in addition to the lord, the tomb also contains up to 31 other people who were "sacrificed to serve as companions."

Mayo said the excavation of the burial site was not yet complete so it could not be determined how many people were in the tomb. She said the lord had been buried face down, which was typical of this type of burial, on top of the body of a woman.  

Inside the grave at El Caño Archaeological Park, scientists discovered an array of gold treasures, Panama Culture Minsitry

Linette Montenegro, national director of heritage at the Ministry of Culture, said that excavation at the archaeological park began in 2022. Montenegro said that the gold and artifacts found in the tomb "have not only economic value, but also incalculable historical and cultural value."

El Caño Archaeological Park was a necropolis that was built around 700 AD and abandoned around 1000 AD, the ministry said.  It is located in Coclé province, about 100 miles southwest of Panama City.

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