El Caño Archaeological Site and Museum, Coclé, Panama
If you are traveling through Coclé province or if you have an interest in archaeology, I would strongly recommend a visit to El Caño Archaeological Site and Museum.
Located 27 kilometers (17 miles) west of Penonomé, the small town of El Caño is home to the best archaeological sites in Panama. In fact, National Geographic is currently conducting a dig at the site! Watch for the sign on the left-hand side of the road as you head west and follow the signs after your turn off the Pan-American Highway. You will travel on a gravel road, but it is in good shape and even a sedan can make the trip, especially when it has not been raining.
The site has a small museum with some stone tools and figures and nice posters explaining what is known of the history of the site. Signs are in Spanish, but an effort is being made to write an English brochure. The guide who will show you the museum and grounds speaks only Spanish, but speaks slowly and points out everything, so anyone will enjoy the tour.
Between 20,000 and 40,000 people occupied the grounds in the early 1500’s. Between AD 500 and AD 1500 it was believed that this was a place for ceremony and burial. There are about a dozen burial mounds found around the site and one has been unearthed and covered with a pavilion for visitors to view some of the skeletons that were dug up. It is believed that various classes were buried here as some bodies were found in mass graves while others were neatly laid out. However, archaeologists do not believe that royalty was buried at the site. Jewelry and pottery also have been found at the site and some artifacts are on display in the museum.
In another section of the site stone carvings are displayed and information in the museum talks of other stone figurines that were removed from the site and brought to museums in the United States.
Part of the site currently is closed for the work being conducted by National Geographic, but the site is definitely worth your visit.
Admission is $1.00 per adult and $0.25 per child. They are closed on Mondays, but open 9:20 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on other days of the week (except Sunday when they are open only until 1:00 p.m.). Bring you sunscreen and bug spray.