After a morning re-visit of the archaeological park of San Agustín, which was partly closed because of the pandemic, we headed up to Alto de los Ídolos. After my previous visit twelve years before, I was sure I had visited the site on horseback, but the further we drove, the more unlikely this became. When we finally parked at the modern entrance, I was almost sure I had never been before. We walked up the hill through a forest, to arrive at an open space. Two hills have actually been joined in pre-hispanic times by the enigmatic people who made the largest necropolis of the planet. We walk up to Meseta B which lies east of Meseta A. We find several tombs with slabs of stones and guardian statues, much like the ones we had seen earlier down at San Agustín. We also find sculptures in the shape of crocodiles, which is odd since no crocodiles live in the region.
We walk the grassy field towards Meseta A. At the foot of the hill with many more funerary mounds, we find the tallest sculpture of all the San Agustín sites: a seven metre tall human figure. The clearly visible diagonal markings show that the sculpture was buried in the ground for a long time. Up on the hill, we find many interesting burial graves. Many of them have slabs of stone, guardian statues, with facial expressions that seem a little more friendly than those at the main San Agustín site. Behind the guardian statues and the dolmen, we find sarcophagi, some with a lid sculpted with human shapes. It was a drive to get here, but we are now very happy we did. We find these tombs very interesting, with lots of beautiful details and well sculpted statues. We walk from tomb to tomb, and find that every one of them is unique. It is only the layout that is similar in most.
Several of the tombs are open at the backside, and some of them are several metres deep. Some have sarcophagi in which the remains of the dead were put to rest, others have rectangular tombs with stone slabs on four sides. The tombs here date back to the Regional Classic period, from 1-900CE, but excavations have revealed that this site was already occupied since 1000BCE and it was abandoned in the 14th century. Part of the thrill of the San Agustín sites is the mystery of it all: most of the tombs have yet to be excavated and studied, and much is still to be learned about the people who lived here and the masters who carved these elaborate tombs. By the time we walk down to the entrance (where the small museum is unfortunately closed because of the pandemic) we are glad we took the detour to come here. And oh, I found out I had been here in 2009 already: not on horseback, but with an organised day trip from San Agustín.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Alto de los Ídolos (Colombia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Alto de los Ídolos. Read more about this site.