chapter  4
45 Pages

The Felidae in Pre-Columbian Panama: A thematic approach to their imagery and symbolism

This chapter addresses felid imagery and symbolism in Pre-Columbian Panama (figure 4.1). Relevant 'contextualized' artifacts (i.e., those that archeologists find buried in datable and socially meaningful strata) are tragically much rarer in this country than undocumented artifacts extracted by looters and sold to collectors and museums. This is a serious obstacle to interpretations and reconstructions of past iconographies and cognitive systems, because vital data - such as the age and sex of people with whom animal icons and body parts are buried - are nearly always lost when sites are opened by non-professionals (see also Reichel-Dolmatoff 1990:11).1