Forget wands, talismen and cauldrons -- in Pre-Columbian Central America, it was all about magic rocks.
An archaeologist and her colleagues have identified a cache of 12 unusual rocks and crystals in a cave in western Panama, but just what the stones were used for is unclear.
The minerals were found in an archaeological site known as the Casita de Piedra rock-shelter, near the town of Boquete. Analysis of charcoal bits found directly above and below the stones suggest they date back 4,000 to 4,800 years.
"The cache of stones recovered at Casita de Piedra may represent the earliest material evidence in Central America of shamanistic practice," the researchers wrote in a new paper in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.
We may never know exactly what the stones were used for, although modern-day shamans in Costa Rica use ritual stones to communicate with spirits or diagnose illnesses, LiveScience reported.
Casita de Piedra is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Panama
The find included quartz, pyrite and magnetic minerals, according to geologist Stewart Redwood, who consulted on the project. There were both carved and uncarved pieces. "The collector of the stones clearly had an eye for unusual stones and crystals with a special significance whose meaning is lost to us," Redwood said in a written statement from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.