Chiriqui, Panama, Central America
Tours & Attractions:
Sitio Barriles Museum
(Click Photos To Enlarge)
Walking down the beautiful garden path at Sitio
Barriles is like stepping into the past. Distributed throughout the
bird and animal filled gardens are relics of an ancient culture
first discovered in 1906. In 1925 William Fredrick Houx came to this
site, southwest of Volcán, from California to grow coffee and
established a hotel along with the coffee plantation. Any
excavation, whether for building or gardening, unearthed pottery and
The biggest discovery came in 1947 when 18 human sized
pieces were discovered while preparing an area for planting. These
statues, now in Panama City at the Reina Torres de Araúz Museum,
show two different races of people; one with African features and
the other with oriental features. Who were these people living here
300 to 600 years BC? Are these statues evidence of the migration of
early man? Much is still to be learned from this important
It is believed that in ancient times Barriles was an important town.
Remains have been found of pottery production, medicinal remedy
making, a temple, a tomb and gold, both poured and hammered. One
large rock displays a significant ancient map, carved with the
routes to the neighboring areas and both oceans, which indicated
Barriles was a ceremonial site.
Many of the rock artifacts are made from basalt, which came from
Volcan Baru over 16 kilometers away. The presence of barrel-shaped
stones may be the answer to how these massive pieces of rock were
moved and gives the site its name. One massive slab of highly
polished basalt shows designs only when wet. This is quite different
from the carved pieces. These designs were made with tree resins,
and one of these pieces has been determined to be from a temple.
Today, metaphysical groups come to Barriles to experience its
energy, which is said to be better than that at Manchu Pichu.
pottery that was made here was created from the different clays that
can still be seen along the stream that crosses the property, a
stream that we were told goes uphill (north) one kilometer to the
Chiriqui River. Both high and low relief appear on the various
bowls, urns and pots of many different sizes and shapes.
| One of the most important
recent finds came 7 years ago when a large stone slab was uncovered.
It indicated that it was the roof to a structure, which turned out
to be a tomb. Embedded in the walls are funeral urns for the ashes
of the deceased. No bones have been found, only ashes, as the soil
here is acidic and dissolved the bones long ago. Visitors are
requested not to touch the pottery pieces, as they are fragile and
fall apart with the least provocation. The Barriles culture was
probably destroyed by an eruption from Volcán Baru.
Edna Landau, William Fredrick Houx’s
granddaughter, lives here with her family and gives tours in both Spanish
and English. Besides the wonderful opportunity to experience this
archeological site where, unlike many other such sites pictures are
allowed. This makes a wonderful outing in a picturesque setting with
plants from all over the world. Be sure to check out the Thailand sour
lemon tree, which yields a quart of juice per lemon. The family
still produces coffee, which is organically grown, hand peeled and
roasted. They also make delicious cheese, wine, jelly and duros (a
delightful fruit and ice treat), all available for purchase. As the
government does not fund this site and no entrance fee is charged,
donations are both greatly appreciated and necessary.