The First Cathedral on America's Pacific Coast

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New research dispels the idea that Panama Viejo was initially founded one-half mile from the site of its visible present-day ruins. The archaeological and historical evidence subject to interdisciplinary analysis demonstrates that the city remained on the same main plaza next to its natural port from its foundation five hundred years ago until its destruction in 1671. The data reconsidered and newly uncovered also suggest reasons for previous misinterpretations of the city's early foundational history. Unlike many colonial cities and towns, Panama Viejo did not move during its first century of existence. However, its main church, which became the bishopric's cathedral in 1524, did relocate after 1541. The new evidence establishes and confirms the original location of the first Cathedral on America's Pacific Ocean to the south of Panama Viejo's main plaza, and explains its move to an elevated, rocky area on the eastern side of the same plaza over 20 years later. Excavations undertaken in 2018 have confirmed the original temple's location a mere 50 m from the visible ruins of the cathedral, whose tower remains a symbol of Panamanian identity today.
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Historical Archaeology volume 55, pages219-237 (2021)
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