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Colombia: San Agustín Archeological sites

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San Agustín Archeological sites | Colombia | Americas

[Visited: January 2009]

On a sunny morning, we walked to the main square of San Agustín and mounted the horses that were waiting for us. Fortunately, I had asked for a tame one: my Colombian companion, an experienced horse rider, had asked for a good horse and indeed, before I knew it, we were galloping through the streets of the attractive colonial town. While my horse did not show to be a leader, it certainly was attached to her valient horse and followed it wherever it went. Our first stop was El Tablón. Five statues under a roof, standing straight, and presumably dedicated to a moon deity. Our guide explained the history of the slabs, how they had been carved out of rock and put right here, claiming that these statues were several thousands of years old - something I could not believe. We soon realized that there must be many more such statues hidden in the ground: the ones we saw now, as well as those we would see later that day, had almost all been found by coincidence, mostly by farmers.

Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): Coloured rock statue at El Purutal

We climbed the hill again, and set off to La Chaquira. Here, we had to walk down a little bit more before reaching a group of rocks roughly shaped like a pyramid. At first, we thought we had reached a nice view point, as we had a fantastic panorama over the Magdalena river below us in the green valley. But then we started noticing figures carved out in the rock surfaces, on the rocks lying around us. Figures representing the moon and the sun, animals, and humans in very expressive positions. This apparently was a sacred site for the old civilization of San Agustín, where sacrifices were performed, and we could understand why. It is a unique place at a unique location in nature. After we climbed back to our horses who were patiently waiting for us, we climbed our horses again and drove on. While I had to get used to horseback riding again, I started to like it: the ride through the green landscape over muddy paths, the feeling of freedom - it made me thoroughly enjoy the day.

Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): Bird with snake carved in rock at La Pelota

We continued riding to La Pelota, where more statues are standing. One of them representing a bird, probably an eagle or owl, with a serpent in its beak. While it started to rain, we ran to the nearby site of El Purutal. Here, we found royal tombs with the only surviving coloured statues of the region. Impressive ones: showing off their teeth, and while the statue of the queen was holding an infant, the king had apparently already sacrificed the poor child. It gave their smiles a grim expression. While looking at the undulating landscape around us, we wondered how many more statues are still lying somewhere under the earth. From here, we rode back through the lovely landscape, over paths that had become slippery because of the rain, towards the Archeological Park of San Agustín, where we unfortunately had to say goodbye to our dear horses.

Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): Tomb at El Purutal, the only coloured statues
Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): One of the rock carvings at Chaquira
Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): Queen at El Purutal: one of the very few coloured statues of the San Agustín culture
Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): El Purutal: close-up of one of the very few coloured statues
Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): Coloured king about to sacrifice a child on a statue at El Purutal
Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): Horseback riding from one site to the next near San Agustín
Picture of San Agustín Archeological sites (Colombia): Carved rocks at El Tablón

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