Photographs: Jorge Vinueza
“Jigsaw is an understatement,” says restorer Coral Perero, accompanied by a young apprentice who washes the ceramic shards found at Cerro Jaboncillo. The vast majority of the findings reach their hands in a thousand pieces, which the many dexterous women workers begin to piece together with great skill and astonishing memory. They tell me that when they are cleaning an undecipherable chip, they are suddenly reminded of another pot they had worked on and that they are often correct when trying to match it.
The surrounding environment is, at this time of year, still lush and green, with stoic ceiba trees towering above the canopy. From Picoazá and the project’s Research Center, we walk the sandy road to the thatch houses, made to become showrooms, where a small Screech-0wl, no larger than a hand, sits groggy-eyed above the doorway of its new home, built only a few months ago. These small exhibit halls, among other things, recreate meetings between the region’s pre-Columbian chiefs, or depict the ancestral legacy of surrounding communities. Further along, we find vestiges of houses and buildings, revealing the magical world of the Manteños and the hard work required to bring their civilization to light.
Stone seats of power; evidence of agricultural terracing, including indications of the existence of ornamental terraces; a pre-Columbian quarry; wells; graves; ceramic vestiges, some reminiscent of works of ancient Egypt; charred organic matter; evidence of more than nine hundred communal structures and housing; the Hojas-Jaboncillo Archaeological Complex is only in its early stages of study, and it promises many more great discoveries.
A fascinating visit awaits
Museum – A generous space that will soon offer a permanent exhibit of archaeological discoveries found in and around Jaboncillo.
Children’s library – Conceived for the community, with books and activities for younger visitors.
Manteño houses (replicas) – These houses serve as exhibit halls to illustrate pre-Columbian lifestyles and interesting aspects of the present-day nearby communities.
Archaological sites – The digging site covers an area of about 30 acres, where important Manteña structures have been unearthed.
Caminata al cerro / Hiking Jaboncillo hill – A wonderful hike up to the top traverses a series of forested ecosystems, offering beguiling views of the entire region.