The Panama Canal expansion work has uncovered an unexpected trove of archeological and paleontological treasures, scientists said, as the massive construction project winds down.
Workers who have blasted through mountains and dug up thick vegetation, have also uncovered the fossils of some 3,000 invertebrates and 500 vertebrates, as well as of more than 250 plants—including the remains of a forest consumed by fire after a volcanic eruption.
Experts hired by the Panama Canal Authority have identified remains of camels, crocodiles, the teeth of a giant shark, as well as bones of other animals millions of years old.
Dredging work in Lake Gatun and the excavation of tons of earth also uncovered fragments from hundreds of years of human habitations—from pre-Colombian through colonial and provincial times, through independence, which began in 1903.
Artifacts include pottery shards, arrowheads and items buried during a pre-Colombian funeral. Also found was a dagger from the 16th century, a chimney from 1908, and a collection of bottles, wagons and buckets used to mix cement during the canal’s first wave of construction.
For the past seven years, Panama has been working to add a third set of locks to the canal, to nearly triple its capacity.
The expansion was initially scheduled to finish this year, in time for the centennial anniversary, but has now been pushed back to January 2016.