• Environment and Geography

    This culture inhabited the central region of what is now province of Veraguás in Panama. The area extends from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast and includes a number of islands. The climate here is mainly humid and tropical, and the landscape includes wooded areas and valleys suitable for agriculture, as well as high mountains, hilly areas, and coastal lowlands.

  • Economy and Technology

    The Veraguas were an agricultural people that complemented their diet with the locally available wild species. They also engaged in trade to obtain exotic items and raw materials from other areas. Gold was panned from rivers or obtained from shallow pits dug out of the plains and mountains and was worked by cold hammering and by casting, using the lost wax method. The Veraguas made three dimensional figures, the most notable of which were eagles with lengthened beaks and hollow body. They also made alloys of gold and copper (tumbaga), obtaining the copper by bartering with groups from what is now Colombia. They used volcanic rock to make axes and spear points.

  • Art

    The Veraguás artistic style belongs to the Panamanian polychrome tradition, and is characterized by geometric designs with feathers applied to vases and pedestal bowls. Other ceramic pieces include vessels with semicircular tableaus in black or brown paint, sometimes in four- or five-colored polychrome designs. Their scenes include schematic representations of animals – fish, rays or sharks, herons, caiman gods, in a standing position, face on or in profile, or hunched down. Some pieces are modeled and unpainted but highly life-like, and represent hunchbacked human figures, pregnant women, people playing musical instruments, and even drums. Most have feet made from a folded ribbon of clay.

    Veraguás stonework is perhaps best known for its low, three legged tables, carved with zoomorphic or geometric motifs on the lower part. These have been interpreted as seats for funeral ceremonies, and not as maize crushers. Another noteworthy piece is the stone female sculpture known as the “Venus de Cébaco”, which has a circular headdress and long hair, traced outlines of the arms, and rigid features. It has no pedestal, so is thought to have been placed on an altar. The statue is believed to have represented a local goddess or heroine. The Veraguás carved talc and semi-precious stones into figurines and pipes, which were left as grave offerings. The finest work of the culture’s goldsmiths took the form of the eagle figures mentioned above, with their curved beaks and spread wings. These were left as offerings in the graves of chiefs and important figures.

  • Social Organization

    Little is known of the social organization of the Veraguas culture, but it is believed that they were organized into chiefdoms under caciques.

  • Beliefs and Funerary Practices

    Different styles of Veraguás burial have been found, some in waste middens two or three meters beneath the floor of dwellings, others in even deeper tombs, and still others in buried ceramic urns.

  • Settlement Pattern

    No information exists on the Veraguas settlement pattern.

  • History

    During the time of the Veraguás culture an extensive trading network existed among many cultures of the Intermediate Area, Mesoamerica, and even the Central Andes. The Veraguás culture came to an end with the arrival of the Spanish invaders.

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