As we know many of you are probably history buffs, and interested in the pre-Hispanic history of Colombia, we thought it would be great to tell a little bit about some of the most popular and well-known archaeological sites you could visit during your tour in Colombia. Each archaeological sites offers you a unique experience to learn about a different chapter of Colombian history and heritage.
San Agustin Archaeological Park
Located in the foothills of the Andes in the central Colombian department of Huila, San Agustin Archaeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the “largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America”1. The park is home to around 500 monuments of which most are related to funerals and burials; however, there are also impressive religious monuments such as the Fuente de Lavapatas, which is carved into a stream bed.
The sculptures and monuments in the park have been traced back to the mythology of pre-Hispanic people that inhabited the area hundreds of years ago, and who were forced out of the area and into the Amazon and Orinoco regions of Colombia around 1400—the group practically disappeared at this time.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tierradentro Archaeological Park is located in the Colombian department of Cauca, not far from Huila. Even so, archaeologists have distinguished the Tierradentro people from other pre-Hispanic groups in the area by the fact that they had two stages in their funeral process instead of one, like the pre-Hispanic culture of San Agustin.
Tierradentro is famous for its collection of pre-Hispanic statues as well as an impressive number of underground graves containing a number of unique and intricate murals painted on their inner walls.
Located in the Colombian department of Boyacá close to the colonial town of Villa de Leyva, Infiernito (meaning “little hell”) is an archaeological site that also once served as a burial and religious ceremony site in what was once Muisca territory. Due to the structures and placement of a series of upright stones (similar to Stonehenge in ways), the site was initially deemed diabolical by the Spaniards when they discovered it. However, much to the contrary, the Muiscas organized the monoliths according to the Muisca calendar and used the space to perform funerary and religious ceremonies.
The archaeological site of Ciudad Perdida is on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia in the department of Magadalena. It is located in a rainforest like environment within the highest coastal mountain range in the world, the Sierra Nevada. Ciudad Perdida was likely founded before Machu Picchu in Peru, and it was an important site for the Tairona people, ancestors of the current Wiwa, Kogui, and Arhuaco indigenous groups that continue to live in the area. Still considered a sacred area by these groups, Ciudad Perdida is different from the aforementioned archaeological sites in that it was not exclusively used for funerary or religious events, but is rather the actual site of a pre-Hispanic city.
Happy archaeological excursioning!
The Uncover Colombia Team