On 3 October, 2016 Patrick and Sally Wiegand gave a talk on two archaeological sites in Colombia, including treasures from the Gold Museum in Bogota.
San Agustín is home to the largest complex of megalithic funerary monuments in South America. There are 20 burial mounds, some as big as 30 metres in diameter, connected to each other by terraces and platforms, causeways and paths. These cover the large and elaborate stone tombs of elite individuals, surrounded by some 600 statues. These monuments all date from the regional
Classic period of 1-900AD. The second site, high in the rugged territory of Tierradentro, has a huge concentration of hypogea (80 shaft tombs with side chambers) cut deep into the rock. These housed collective secondary burials for elite groups and were built in the period 600-900AD. They incorporate rockcut stairways, chambers and pillars and are elaborately decorated with black,
red and white murals of geometric and anthropomorphic design.
Gold has been worked across Meso- and South America from 1500BC, and the ancient craftsmen developed the full range of techniques that are still in use today. Gold ornamentation was worn, particularly by chieftains and shamans, both for body adornment and for spiritual transformation and artefacts were designed to make full use of light and movement in order to enhance the power of their effects. A selection of highlights from the gold museum’s collection featured the key animal spirits of jaguar, bat, serpent and eagle, and culminating in the wonderful ‘La Ofrenda’ golden raft, which has been linked to the legend of El Dorado.