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Thursday, June 6, 2013

PRE-COLUMBIAN ARTIFACTS -- OLD STORIES TO TELL


PANAMA PERTINATE
I live in a country that is rich in history.  Although Panama didn’t become a sovereign nation until 1903, the isthmus has been a natural bridge between the Americas of eons. The indigenous of Panama are somewhat direct descendant's of the pre-Colombian tribes that made this part of Central America their home.  With the arrival of the Spaniards, these tribes either moved or were eliminated. Evidence of their existence is being discovered on a daily basis.  Panama is in a state of boom – development and construction is unearthing more and more pre-Columbian artifacts. 

What is troublesome to me and many of my contemporaries is the black market trade developing to turn these rare items into cash. The indigenous tribes have been the biggest violators of this form of looting for decades.

This has been occurring since I was a kid living in the Canal Zone.  An excerpt from my book of short stories alludes to this fact. My dad and I were a party to this unethical act.     

WHAT DID YOU DO WHEN YOU WERE ELEVEN?

My dad used to run with several adventure seekers when we lived in the Panama Canal Zone.  These guys were mostly survivors of WWll and knew they were untouchable.  My dad was a seagoing tug captain during the war.  He hauled supplies from Seattle to Alaska.  All these guys had their lives changed by the world war.  They all had families and for the most part settled down but they still craved the adrenalin rush brought forth by adventure.

A guy named Strickland and Don Judson were my dad’s pals back then.  Strickland was a wild man… he was a hoot and my mother hated him.
 

 Strickland with his arm around my mother.   

Strickland had learned of a Spanish treasure supposedly buried deep in the jungle of the DARIEN --near the Colombian border.  My dad, Don Judson, Strickland and eleven year-old yours truly set out in his Henry-J to find the treasure.  I was so excited I almost wet myself.  When to road got impassable, we transferred to a military jeep driven by a kid not much older than me.  Dad finally rented four burros to traverse the old trail into South America. We slept in military surplus hammocks with mosquito netting, cooked and ate over an open fire, and were constantly wet from the rain.  The jungle was dark and the burros were slow.

Don Judson (Juddy) 

We were 3 days out on this trip when we finally reached the village where the treasure was supposed to be hidden. (I learned later this treasure hunt was just a joke on me) The small village on the Colombian border was populated by Embara Indians and they had looted an old pre-Colombian temple or grave site.  They were selling the gold artifacts for trinket prices. The photo below is representative of what those ‘trinkets’ looked like.     

Strickland bought a unit similar to the one on the left in the photo.  He was a ‘frogman’ (UDT – underwater demolition team) in the Navy and was at the invasion in Normandy.  Dad told me later he’d received the Navy Cross and a couple other medals. Don Judson bought one that is represented on the right.  My dad bought the one similar to the one in the middle.  Over the period of time (this trip took 7 days) I learned Don Judson had been a pilot in the army air corp. Judson had flown B-17’s out of England during the war; bombing Germany. 

I learned a lot on that trip.  A big deal for me; just another adventure for Dad, Juddy, and Strychnine. 

 


I recently ran across a treasure trove of artifacts discovered during a construction project on the highway to Volcan.  The doctor who found them has put them on display in her clinic -- As they should be.
DO THE MATH: each one of these artifacts contains multiple stories.  Consider the way they were constructed; nomadic people sculpting figurines out of mud -- firing them in some sort of oven and then packing them along with their other belongings as they travel biped through the jungle.   
 

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