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Ancient Panama: Chiefs in Search of Power Hardcover – December 29, 1979


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1St Edition edition (December 29, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029273817X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292738171
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,479,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on May 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For me, Panama always brought to mind the canal, tales of American skullduggery, and sleazy, uniformed dictators called "The Pineapple". The word "ancient", usually applied to such places as Greece, Egypt or India, did not connect to Panama in my thoughts any more than it did to Wyoming. So it was with considerable curiosity that I bought Mary Helms' ANCIENT PANAMA. It turned out to be a little different than I imagined. This book is written for a handful of specialists, not for the general reader, not even for the fairly literate person interested in pre-Columbian history in a seldom-mentioned part of the New World. The style is "Heavy Academic", the pages clogged with vast numbers of references in parentheses, 18 pages of extensive footnotes to be found at the end. But, if you are searching for world-class expertise on aspects of Panamanian culture and society in the early 1500s, you have certainly come to the right place. Helms has carefully amassed a great amount of useful information on a very specific topic. She writes of political power and the system of chiefs that ruled the many small, rank-holding societies in Panana at the time of first European contact. Because information is exceedingly scarce, she uses (I assume) all the available Spanish sources of the time, writers who travelled in the area a century or more later, 19th century travellers' tales, more recent ethnological work done on the Cuna---the famous Panamanian Indian group still flourishing on the Caribbean coast---writers on Colombian Indian societies that may have resembled the ancient Panamanians, and even draws comparisons with Polynesian societies that also were divided into separate ranks. It is a very thorough job.Read more ›
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