knowing Barriles Culture

Barriles Culture

During my visit to the Highlands I could not stop visiting the Barriles Culture at Barriles Archaeological Site, I remember that on my first visit I was very impressed by everything I saw and learned, however, this time was very, very different, they did not give me much information and even I asked questions, but the young woman did not know what I was talking about.

It may be because my first visit was guided by the owner and this time not. So for this post I will give you information on both visits.

The site is located in Volcán Community in Chiriquí, Panama, it is in a private land of Landa Houx family, at 1,300 meters above sea level, it has 60 hectares, of course only a small part is recorded.

Statue of Cacique carried by subjects
Statue of Cacique carried by subjects.

Cultura Barriles owes its name to early discoveries, why? The first thing they found were some carved rocks that, to the discoverers seemed like barrels, the findings were in 1947.

How did they find the ancient objects of Cultura Barriles?

Well, a tree fell down and showed something of what was part of an ancient culture.

After the eruption of the Barú Volcano, this site was totally buried and so the years passed, many years, it again had vegetation and was populated.

Many were the things that were found among which: metals, a statue of a chief (he was carried by subjects), huacas, ceramics in high and low relief, petroglyphs  which shows a map with the Baru Volcano and another volcano more.


Urns with human ashes were also found, indicating that this culture cremated their dead, as well as they buried them together, but in different urns.

On the other hand, the soil in this sector is very acidic, so there is no possibility of finding human bones, this means that the remains of the people who died during the eruption of the Barú Volcano were not found.

However, it is known that they originated from Asia and Africa.

Barriles Sitehas a small museum, rather it is a room where they keep parts of objects that they found.

There are handicrafts from different cultures including the Maya, it believes that they arrived in a war plan, destroying what was there before.

You can also see stones carved in the shape of a ball, ceramics, funeral urns, food urns, utensils, spearhead, metates to crush food (still used in Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, among other places) and modern plastic containers, as you read, and they have nothing to do with the Barriles Culture.

Rocks carved in the shape of spheres
Rocks carved in the shape of spheres

The phenomenon of water

It leaves the soil and begins its journey towards the Atlantic slope, when in Chiriquí all the river currents go towards the Pacific. There a phenomenon of magnetism occurs.

It rises 10 kilometers with an angle of 45º, incredible, right ?, reaching the Río Chiriquí Viejo and then continues its journey to end in the Pacific.

The Barriles Culture was in this place since 300 A.D. to 600 A.D. but, it is believed that it predates the Christian era.

Magnetic River at Barriles Culture
Magnetic River at Sito Barriles.

Invisible writing

Invisible writing, it just to give it a name, it is a carving or writing a rock, but it is only visible when the rock is wet and for a really short time.

I had the opportunity to see this on my first visit, because on the second, the girl wet the rock when I was arriving, she was in front of the rock so she did not let see, so I saw almost nothing, (we were only 2 visitors), do not let it happen to you.

rock with invisible carving, only seen with water
Rock with invisible carving, only seen with water.

The excavations

It was a house where many of the objects were found that now they are in the museum, and the other is a place with ceramics where they are layered, one on top of another among the ground, the most valuable are below and the ones with the lowest value are closer to the surface.

Currently the ones that are seen are a representation to show how they were.

Excavation of ceramics.

The family created an organization to preserve the site, it is called Fundación Cultura Barriles.

As many ancient discoveries, many of the objects are scattered in different museums.

In addition, you can do the tour among a variety of plants, the guide will also give you an explanation of them and you will pass through bamboo bridges.

Por otro lado, el lugar cuenta con algunas cosas antiguas como una de las primeras estufas en Chiriquí entre otras cosas.

On the other hand, the place has some old things like one of the first stoves in Chiriquí among other things.

If you want, you can also camp, but the cost is handled directly with the owners of the place.

They do a festival with the Ngäbes (the Ngäbes are indigenous)and it happen between the 1st and 2nd Sunday of February, if you plan to visit the Highlands for the date you can take a tour to Barriles Site.

Barriles Culture trail Trails within Sitio Barriles.
Trails at Sitio Barriles.


  • Monday to Sunday,
  • 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


 There are 2 options.

  • Free entrance: the visit is not guide and the parking lot is $3.00.
  • $3.00: the visit is guided and you can park for free.

How to get to Barriles Culture?

By car: take the main road to Volcan (going up from the Panamericana), continue until you see Burritos Mexican Grill (on the right hand), take the street to the Left (of the main road), continue until you see the sign for Sitio Barriles, it is on the right hand, it is over 6 kilometers from the main road, about 9 minutes by car.

By bus: take a bus to David Bus Terminal, then take a bus to Volcan. In Volcan there is public transport to Barriles Site, but it is scarce, you can go by taxi from Volcan town and then return by bus.

Bamboo bridge
Bamboo bridge.

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