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San Augustin and its stone figures

Listed under Archaeological Sites in Andean, Colombia.

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San Augustin, considered to be one of the most significant archaeological sites in Latin America, is actually a collection of ceremonial and burial sites scattered over an area of 250 square miles. Little is known of San Augustin. In particular, who were the people that lived here, where did they come from, when did they arrive, and what was the purpose of the stone figures they so expertly carved? None of these questions can be answered with any degree of certainty. Scholars have hypothesized that an archaic people settled in the forested hills as early as 3300 BC. These shadowy people may possibly have been the ancestors of the stone carvers who produced more than 500 monolithic statues, sarcophagi, and petroglyphs sometime between the 6th and 14th centuries AD.

Regarding the purpose of the fantastic stone statues, neither archaeology nor local folk lore provides any clues. Reaching heights of fifteen feet, the statues depict a variety of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures. There are reasonably realistic representations of human figures; smiling, frowning, and sneering monsters; and various animals such as jaguars, snakes, frogs and great birds. Some of the faces of the statues are somber, others are serene and wise, still others frightening and ominous. Certain scholars interpret the sculptures as metaphors indicating shamanic associations. Yet they also seem to have an additional power beyond their visual appearance and metaphoric message. Studying similar iconic objects around the world one learns of talismanic qualities inherent in such sculptures, of how they were charged with spiritual powers through the ritual and ceremony. These sculptures actually function as batteries, or memory banks, recording the particular powers that were directed into them. While nothing is known of the preparation or use of the San Augustin statues, it seems that they too are objects charged with - and still containing - mystic powers from a long forgotten age.

More on San Augustin from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Other expert and press reviews

“San Agustín Archeological Park”

'The largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America stands in a wild, spectacular landscape. Gods and mythical animals are skilfully represented in styles ranging from abstract to realist. These works of art display the … Read more...

Written by press. UNESCO

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