Tierradentro

? – 1600 A.D.

Little is known about the Tierradentro chronology. During later periods: villages on mountainsides; economy based on the cultivation of maize, tomato, and
squash. Importance of local salt production.

Tierradentro GOLD WORKING

Some of the pieces found are similar to those of San Agustin and Calima Yotoco. During later eras, tumbaga nose rings are produced.

The Tierradentro region is located in the watershed areas of the Paez and Negro Rivers, tributaries of the Magdalena. Overlooking these hollows stand the permanent snow-capped mountainsides of the Nevados del Huila and Purace. In archaeological terms it is not a very well documented territory. Without a doubt, its great attraction continues to be the existence of groups of enormous hypogea carved in the hardened volcanic ash, prevalent in areas such as Alto de San Andres, Alto del Duende, Loma del Aguacate. and Loma Segovia.

Isolated discoveries. with no cultural association or tie to other dates. suggest that much like San Agustin, the region could have been occupied by groups of cultivators hundred of years before the ove era. To date, however. the best known data correspond to relatively recent times. A primary burial site in Santa Rosa dates back to 630 A.D. Another available date 830 A.D. corresponds to hypogea from Loma del Aguacate. However, ceramic vessels similar to those from the Yotoco phase of the Calima culture and the Horqueta phase of San Agustin have been discovered in Tierradentro. It is also worth noting that there is evidence in the region indicating the existence of statuary. Following the same pattern of development as San Agustin, the statuary of Tierradentro, although less elaborate, is associated with structures built for ceremonial purposes, but apparently it is not related to the famous hypogea which were erected later.

The people who inhabited Tierradentro lived in huts constructed on terraces on the sides of the mountains. Fifteen dwelling terraces have been found on the hills of Patucue. Fragments of vessels very similar to those discovered at primary burial sites and hypogea have been encountered inside some of those dwellings. This evidence tells of the existence of life in small villages. As archaeological documentation also indicates, these groups of people cultivated maize, tomatoes, and squash, and practiced the supplementary economic activities of hunting and fishing.

According to recent studies, it is certain that Tierradentro was an important salt producing center. Near the Ullocos river and the town of Segovia, a prehispanic field was excavated; data found there confirm it as a site where waste materials associated with the exploitation of saltwater wells were discarded. The inhabitants of the region, like those from other parts of the country, evaporated saltwater in ceramic vessels that they would then break to free the blocks of compacted salt. Other activities that contributed to the local economy and which allow the archaeological record to be reconstructed, were the spinning and weaving of cotton and, tentatively, gold working.

We would like to point out that the gold working practices of Tierradentro seem parallel to those of San Agustin, although finds have been rare. Initially there is an arm bracelet which meets the following description: made of hammered gold with decorative designs that recall the features of the statuary found in San Agustin; and a mask from Inza representing a face with a fanged feline mouth, which also closely resembles San Agustin iconography. Once again we find early chiefdoms emphasizing the production of hammered gold pieces, very much like those described earlier as coming from Calima, Tumaco, and San Agustin.