National Geographic : 2012 Jan
' Under the direction of archaeologist Julia Mayo, standing at far le , the team at El Caño uncover gold ornaments in a chief 's burial some 16 feet below ground level. In the background, the middle tier of a second tomb is being excavated. conquistadores because some aspects of the cul- ture had continued unchanged until the 1500s. By April 1940 the archaeologists working at Sitio Conte had found a wealth of dazzling artifacts for their museums, and so they depart- ed. A few others continued to probe beneath Panama's green pastures, but they failed to make remarkable discoveries. is stretch of Central America has none of the attractions that have drawn generations of scientists to the Maya ter- ritory to the north---no enduring architecture, dynastic histories, or evidence of intellectual accomplishments such as a calendar. e heat and humidity have rotted away ancient shelters of bamboo and thatch along with most personal possessions, leaving mainly broken pottery and stone tools. from the same river that ows by the Sitio Conte cemetery, there is a line of tall monoliths that crosses the eld at El Caño. In 1925 the stones attracted an American ad- venturer named Hyatt Verrill. He dug several rough holes nearby, uncovering three skeletons of commoners. Additional excavations in the 1970s and 1980s found several more modest graves but no treasure. Despite those unpromising results, Julia Mayo had a good feeling about this site. As a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, she had stud- ied Lothrop's report on Sitio Conte. She knew he ■ Society Grant Julia Mayo's work at El Caño was funded in part by your Society membership.