By Olga Linares

Olga Linares deals a reinterpretation of the vintage rank-societies of the principal Panamanian provinces according to archaeological, ecological, iconographic, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic facts, and concludes that the artwork sort of this zone used animal motifs as a metaphor in expressing the features of aggression and hostility attribute of social and political lifestyles within the crucial provinces.

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Extra info for Ecology and the arts in ancient Panama: On the development of social rank and symbolism in the central provinces (Studies in pre-Colombian art and archaeology)

Sample text

Existing in nothing like the numbers that could be expected had they been regularly used in everyday village activities. The thousands of weapons were mostly for hunting or, more likely, for waging war: projectile points, arrowheads and spearheads of stone, and many bundles of stingray spines (Fig. 17f). The latter were particularly effective because of their barbs and the poison they contained. Other products used for points consisted of the teeth of sharks and the rostra1 spikes of sawfish (Fig.

White came from a clay (probably kaolin), black from manganese ore, and the brick red, violet, and brown colors from hydrated oxides of iron found naturally in earth as ochres or hematites. Lothrop (1942: 14) gives us a good description of the manner in which the area to be decorated was prepared: Painted decoration on plates is the most intricate and varied to be found on any type of vessel from the Sitio Conte. The normal field of decoration is the upper surface, but the lips often carry a painted band and sometimes the entire lower surface is also embellished.

Undoubtedly, a complicated system of myths and religious beliefs underlay this animal-centered iconography, but this is no longer available to us. The Spaniards did not collect verbal accounts of their myths and rituals, Indian societies disappeared from most of the central provinces shortly after the Conquest, and the modern peasant population of the region has little to do with the Indian past. Even when there are fewer practical problems, it is risky to use modern myths to explain the meaning of past iconographies.

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