San Agustín Archaeological Park

Having had a taste of some cool statues on the previous day’s tour, we were ready for the real deal at the main site of San Agustín Archaeological Park. The park is pretty close to San Agustín, so you can take a bus to get there (which we did), or even walk there in around 45 minutes (which we did on the way back).

Very little is known about the ancient civilisation that created all these statues. They had no written language, and had already disappeared by the time that Europeans arrived in South America. The oldest artefacts date from around 3000BC, and the most recent from around 1350AD.

The statues themselves varied in shape and size, with the largest one found to-date being around 7m tall. They were painted in bright colours, including lots of yellow and red – but most of the colour has faded now. The statues represent human or animal forms, with a huge variety of designs – no two statues are the same.

The park consists of several burial hills where statues were found – the statues that were found there are still in their original location. There is also a museum and an area called ‘the forest of the statues’. This area is a trail through the cloud forest with various statues on display that have been retrieved from all over the San Agustín area. In the olden days there were statues scattered all over the place – people found them in fields and put them outside their houses, in town squares, or wherever they felt like! All these ‘wayward’ statues have now been relocated to the museum or ‘the forest of the statues’.

We decided to start in the forest of the statues, and it was EXCELLENT! A really nice walk through the forest, with a statue to look at every 20 metres or so.

This one is holding two sticks of some kind.
Most of the statutes are not designed on the back – but this one is. Looks like wings, or a heart shape?
This one looks a little scary.
This one has a child figure.
Yes, this is not a statue… as a special bonus we saw an Andean motmot hiding amongst the statues.

After the forest of the statues, we moved on to the main burial sites. There were really nice trails connecting the various areas, and the whole site was a pleasure to walk around. There were statues of all shapes and sizes – here is a selection of some of the more unusual or famous ones.

The ‘big head’ statue.
An owl? Or an eagle?
A main statue guarded by two double-headed statues.
Close up of double-headed statue.
Central statue holding a child. The figure on the left still has some traces of its original colouring.
Close up of statue with traces of colouring.
Close up of statue holding child.
Statue of a frog!

Inside the complex there is also a place called the ‘fuente de lavapatas’. This is a natural spring area where the bed of the spring has been carved with all kinds of intricate carvings. Unfortunately in the last ten years, the carvings have started to disappear and fade a little – nobody seems to know why?! It’s a little strange, as they had survived so well for such a long time previously.

It was still possible to make out some of the designs though, and it was quite an impressive sight.

Fuente de lavapatas – you can’t see any carvings from this distance!
Close up showing some carvings – a figure on the right, and a head in the middle.

The burial sites are all on top of hills – so there are nice views of the surrounding countryside.

Burial site on top of a hill.

OK, back to the statues! 🙂

Another statue with two guardians.
Statues in their viewing area.
Fierce -looking statue.

After we had visited all the burial areas, we went to the museum – which was pretty good. We then went for another stroll around the forest of statues. This was partly to look at the statues again, and partly to look for birds in the forest! 🙂

Yes, the area was pretty good for spotting birds! 🙂 Here are a couple…

Colombian chachalaca.
Slate-throated redstart.

Overall we were VERY impressed with the park – we had enjoyed our visit immensely. We are also glad that we did the day tour first, and then the park second – compared to the park, the statues on the day tour are not so impressive…

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