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Digital Companion to 'Pre-Columbian Exploitation of Birds Around Panama Bay'

Content related to a chapter in 'The Archaeology of Mesoamerican Animals'

Project Abstract

Project Note

This content pertains to the chapter 'Pre-Columbian Exploitation of Birds Around Panama Bay' in The Archaeology of Mesoamerican Animals (Christopher Götz and Kitty F. Emery, eds.), published by Lockwood Press. The Archaeology of Mesoamerican Animals is an edited volume that links many of its chapters to rich digital content published open access with Open Context. The authors have chosen to link their chapters to related online content (including primary data, maps, and additional images) in order to provide additional research resources in their subject area. The Archaeology of Mesoamerican Animals is available for purchase from ISD.


Our digital resources provide images of bird bones from pre-Columbian sites in Panama, all located around Panama Bay on the Pacific side of the isthmus. The oldest sites are Preceramic: Cerro Mangote (5900-3020 BCE), located near the mid-Holocene coast of Parita Bay, and Playa Don Bernardo (PG-L-19/20), on Pedro González Island in the Pearl Island archipelago (4240-3600 cal BCE). The small bird fauna from the Aguadulce Shelter (AG-13) refers to Preceramic and Early Ceramic times (5400-800 cal BCE). This site has provided many data on plant use and agriculture. Three large villages were located in or near anthropogenic savannas, mangroves, second growth and forest remnants: Sitio Sierra (AG-3) (300 BCE-Spanish contact), Cerro Juan Díaz (LS-3) (200 BCE-1520 CE), and Panamá Viejo (1000 CE-sixteenth century CE). Human burials with bird bone ornaments were found at all these sites. A smaller village (Finca Germán Castillo [LS-31]) was very near the Parita Bay coast CE 550-750, and probably provided dried and salted fish to communities located further inland. So did the Vampiros rock-shelters, which were on or near the active marine shore 200 BCE -CE 300. A Pearl Island sites that were in use not long before Spanish contact in CE 1515 produced worked marine bird bone. All taxonomically distinctive bird bones with evidence for use as ornaments and tools will be portrayed, as will complete or otherwise diagnostic bones from species deemed to be particularly interesting for historical zoogeography. Some species recorded in the avifaunas are no longer present in Panama or are rare vagrants. Others were once common, but now have reduced numbers or ranges have been reduced. Some taxa, such as parrots, macaws and other brightly colored or behaviorally unusual birds may have been moved around by pre-Columbian people.

Site Names

Cerro Mangote, Isla Pedro González, Aguadulce Shelter, Sitio Sierra, Cerro Juan Díaz, Panamá Viejo


4200 BCE-CE 1515


Cooke, Richard G., Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apdo. 0843-03092, Balboa, Ancon, PANAMA,

Isaza-Aizpurúa, Ilean I., Archaeology Department, Boston University, 675 Commonwealth Ave., Suite 347, Boston, MA 02215 USA,

Jiménez, Máximo, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apdo. 0843-03092, Balboa, Ancon, PANAMA,

Steadman, David W., Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-7800, USA,

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Suggested Citation

Richard Cooke, David Steadman, Máximo Jiménez, Ilean Isaza-Aizpurúa. "Digital Companion to 'Pre-Columbian Exploitation of Birds Around Panama Bay'". (2017) In The Archaeology of Mesoamerican Animals. Christopher M Götz, Kitty F Emery (Eds.) . Released: 2017-02-12. Open Context. <> DOI:

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