Tierradentro Archaeological Park (World Heritage)

By | August 26, 2021

According to dentistrymyth, the park contains ruins of a pre-Columbian culture in the form of monumental statues, shaft graves and underground tombs from the 6th to 10th centuries. The burial chambers are decorated with frescoes.

Tierradentro Archaeological Park: facts

Official title: Tierradentro Archaeological Park
Cultural monument: “The land inside” with underground burial places, which were laid out as shaft chamber graves, but also as semicircular burial chambers; in the graves up to 40 urns decorated with depictions of snakes and lizards; Decoration of the graves with »frescoes« with red and black geometric figures as well as with reliefs depicting stylized people; the best preserved burial chambers on the Loma de Segovia – there are still 28 chambers here – as well as 5 graves each on the Alto del Duende and the Alto de San Andrés; also zoomorphic statues at El Tablên
Continent: America
Country: Colombia
Location: between Río Cauca and Río Magdalena in the Central Cordillera, southeast of Cali and northeast of Popayán
Appointment: 1995
Meaning: Testimony to a pre-Columbian culture in the northern Andes

Tierradentro Archaeological Park: history

870 BC BC-630 AD Tierradentro culture
1936 Beginning of archaeological investigations

The deeply hidden land

To this day, the archaeological site is full of puzzles. Because of its remote, almost hidden location, the Spanish called the area “the hidden land”.

When the troops of the Spanish captain Sebastián de Belalcázar, who was already involved in other campaigns and in the conquest of Quito, reached Tierradentro in 1538, they encountered the Páez, who bitterly defended themselves against the Spaniards. “Tierradentro belongs to the Páez. Only the Páez, who never mix their blood with others, will be invincible, ”Chief Juanchamo had exclaimed. And to this day, the Páez settle the rugged land bathed in lush shades of green between the Puracé in the south, the Nevado de Huila in the north, the Río Páez in the east and the Páramos in the west and farm on small plots.

But those people who carved tombs in the soft rock of the massive mountains long before the arrival of the conquistadors remained unknown to this day. The Páez categorically deny any relationship with the builders of the semicircular burial chambers. This may also have something to do with the fact that their ancestors once wiped out the Tierradentro culture. What has remained, however, is a burial site that is unique in America and, at the same time, the American counterpart to the Egyptian Valley of the Kings.

The large and magnificent burial chambers lie several meters below the surface of the earth; steep spiral staircases with high steps lead down to them. Once at the bottom, one squeezes through a narrow entrance into the vault. The burial chambers have a domed roof and up to seven side niches. Each niche is supported by two or more pillars. The walls are whitewashed and decorated with geometric patterns, mostly with rhombuses in red and black and intersecting lines. Stylized faces can be seen on the pillars. Black and red represent life and death. The black color was obtained from a mixture of coal, the red from the plant Anadidos feruginosos. The burial chambers were collective graves containing between four and forty urns. Ashes of human bones were discovered under the floor of some burial chambers. It is therefore assumed that the urn burial was reserved exclusively for high-ranking people.

The urns are elaborate and often decorated with depictions of snakes and lizards. The snake is the symbol of the cycle of life and death, while the lizard embodies male sexuality.

The culture of Tierradentro cultivated the funeral cult of two consecutive burials. The urn burial was preceded by an earth burial. The deceased was buried in a single grave of shallow depth. On this first short “journey” the dead were given utensils and jewelry, the women pots and chains, the men weapons. As soon as only the skeleton was left, the body was exhumed and buried in an urn.

The burial chambers on Loma de Segovia are the most important and for the most part well preserved. Above this site is the Alto del Duende with five graves. The burial place Alto de San Andrés on the other side of the deeply cut valley has five other painted burial chambers. They are dominated by the Loma del Aguacate with dozens of smaller tombs lined up next to one another, which only consist of a single, mostly undecorated chamber and have not yet been thoroughly explored.

From the ridge you can look down on the side valleys and the village of Inza. A mask made of gold was discovered there, which is now exhibited in the Museo de Oro in Bogotá. The expressiveness, the manufacturing technique and the design of this mask are reminiscent of the art of San Agustín. It continues to astonish the experts, because otherwise no such sophisticated gold treasures have been found in Tierradentro.

Tierradentro Archaeological Park (World Heritage)