Saturday, 19 March 2011


Barriles (known also as Sitio Barriles or by the designation BU-24), is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Panama. It is located in the highlands of the Chiriquí Province of Western Panama at 1200 meters above sea level. It is several kilometers west of the modern town of Volcán. This places the site in the Gran Chiriquí culture area (encompassing Western Panama and much of Southern Costa Rica, parts of the even broader Intermediate Area or Isthmo-Colombian Area). The site was originally named for several small stone barrels found in the area, although these have also been found elsewhere in the Río Chiriquí Viejo valley and in Costa Rica. This area has a cool, spring-like climate with a pronounced rainy season between May and November, and a dry but windy season the rest of the year. The region lies on the western flanks of Volcán Barú, a dormant volcano and the highest mountain in Panama.

Like El Caño in Central Panama or Panamá Viejo in Panama City, Barriles is one of the few archaeological sites in Panama regularly accessible to the public. The northwestern portion of the site is accessible to the public through the Landau finca (which is a private property), who have a variety of artifacts on display in their yard, in the walls of a fake excavation block, and in a small private museum. Not all of the artifacts on display were found on-site. The family offers guided tours of the collections and their gardens in both Spanish and English. Donations are greatly appreciated.

The site is believed to have once been a socioceremonial center with a substantial residential population between 500-1000 individuals[1]. It contains a small mound which was once associated with a row of 14 statues. Ten of these depicted solitary individuals, while four included one individual- often chubbier, taller, wearing a conical hat and ornaments- riding atop the shoulders of a naked man, though some of these individuals also wore conical hats[2]. Many scholars have interpreted these double individual statues as evidence for the existence of higher and lower status social groups within Barriles. A large metate (grinding stone) whose border was adorned by tiny stone heads has also been interpreted as evidence for violence or human sacrifice in the past[3]. Many of the statues and the metate are on currently display in the Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Araúz in Panama City.

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