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Station 2:
pre-colonial history


Return to the Ranger House. Just to the right, under the first trees on the beach, you will find an eroded slope. If you look closely, you will notice that there are shell fragments of various types .

This is an indigenous "conchero" from about 1,000 years ago; that is, a place where the indigenous people cleaned molluscs, fish and other sea products and discarded what they did not use. In other words, a dump where shells abound as they are the most perishable discarded material.

sendero isla iguana

The island was frequented by indigenous people more than a thousand years ago

Due to the lack of fresh water, the island never had a permanent population. It is believed that indigenous people from the area spent the night for several days more than 1,000 years ago to fish and collect mollusks, especially those with colorful shells to make chests and ornaments.

arqueologia isla iguana

Remains of  pottery.

The fragments shown in the photo formed flat vessels, made of unpainted clay, very shallow that they filled with water and put it in the sun to obtain salt.


The  snail  The most prized fish that was dived on the island is the Strombilus , because the inner part of its shell has bright shades of pink and white, which  liked  to the indigenous people to make breastplates and jewelry highly valued by the chiefs and important people in the tribes.  

Before gold, shells were signs of power and lineage in pre-Hispanic societies.

archaeology isla iguana

The south-eastern portion of the peninsula was inhabited. Several current populations bear the name of their leaders, such as Pedasí, Purio, Mariabé, who were grouped under great Caciques from the north of the Peninsula.

Human remains found on El Toro beach, Pedasí, in front of Iguana Island, on the mainland.

In Cerro Juan Díaz, on the outskirts of Villa de Los Santos, there was an important indigenous settlement, where archaeologists have found beautiful and delicate breastplates made with the  Strombilus mother-of-pearl. This mollusk only lives in coral reefs and the closest one is found on Isla Iguana. 

cerro juan diaz

Archaeological excavation in Cerro Juan Díaz, 1996.

richard cooke

Dr. Richard Cooke (STRI), lead archaeologist of the excavation at Cerro Juan Díaz, giving a talk at the Villa de Los Santos Museum, 1998.

archaeology cerro juan diaz

Monochromatic pottery rescued from Cerro Juan Díaz, 1996.

archaeology pedasi

Human remains next to polychromatic pottery rescued in Cerro Juan Díaz, 1996.

Bibliography: Remains found by Marco Díaz and Eduardo Moscoso in 1998. The information provided is the product of an interview and site visit by Dr. Richard Cooke, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

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