600 – 1600 A.D.

Region uninhabited prior to 600 A.D., due most likely to volcanic activity. Initial Tuza occupation characterized by centralized villages and social stratification. Tuza period: increased population, agricultural terracing. Markets were developed and trade carried out
with Ecuador, the Amazon region, and the Pacific coast.


Expert handling of forced oxidation to control gold surface, creating multicolored tumbaga pieces such as Pan’s pipes, bells, and applications for textiles.

600 – 1600 A.D.

Societies that based their economy on the cultivation of maize but perhaps not as complex as the Piartal Tuza. Ceramics with negative decoration, and coca production.


Frequent use of pure gold. Creation of ear rings, pendants, nipple shields, and ear cuffs.

In contrast to other regions of southern Colombia, we have no proof at all about the ancient periods of hunting and gathering, early agriculturists, or even the precursors of intensive cultivation of maize by the Andes of Nariño. In fact, the first evidence of population in the region corresponds to surprisingly late dates, around 600 A.D., when groups that had already fully developed maize agriculture began occupying the region. As a reason for this historically late occupation, it is argued that sedentary or semi-sedentary settlements in the region were made all but impossible by frequent volcanic eruptions. Yet, paradoxically, the rich soil formed by the volcanic activity became one of the regions’ principal attractions. Once the periods of the most violent eruptions had passed, the territory was invaded by foreign cultures.

These groups which arrived in the 7th century are known as Piartal-Tuza, a term associated with the ethnicity which the Spaniards called Pastos, and Capuli, and which appears to be linked to some not very satisfactorily defined group or groups. In both cases these societies probably originated in Ecuador and shared few ties with the societies of the rest of southern Colombia.

Piartal corresponds to the Pastos’ first period of development. During this time, the Indians lived in centralized villages conformed of numerous huts with stamped earth floors. They developed gold working, ceramics, and textile industries. Chronologically, we refer to a period from 600 to 1200 A.D. In all probability, they were a hierarchical society, organized chiefdoms. Some Piartal tombs, certainly, are extremely paltry, while others are characterized by abundant burial offerings, rich in gold, wood, textiles, and seashells.

Tuza, on the other hand, is characterized by some changes in the ceramics and by increased population levels. Agricultural terracing with stone retaining walls has been reported and coincides with this increment in demographics, since such terracing would indicate the development of agricultural strategies to feed a growing population. In the 1300’s, the majority of the people were concentrated in the cold high plains of Tuquerres and Ipiales, as well as in the Guaitara River canyon which enjoyed more temperate climates.

Ethno historical data would suggest that the Pastos maintained two basic economic activities. Each community developed specific yet diverse crops at different altitudes. This agricultural strategy meant that the population could easily obtain food sources from different I origins by simply traveling extraordinarily short distances. Additionally, they had a well developed network for marketing their products. The Pastos organized periodic markets for their goods and produce that attracted merchants from neighboring groups living in Ecuador. Those merchants brought their goods from as far south as the Inca Empire. In fact, in the last few years before the arrival I of the Spaniards, it is conceivable that some of their j economic activities were affected by the expansion of the Inca Empire, whose northern frontier almost reached the present day border of Ecuador and Colombia.

The Capuli archaeological complex also reflects a society which dedicated its efforts to the cultivation of maize but which apparently did not reach the same degree of complexity as that of the Pastos. Geographically, they inhabited the Guaitara River basin. The ceramics from this period, decorated with black and red paint, are related to some material excavated in the Carchi province of Ecuador. Their famous “coqueros” , seated representations of shamans chewing coca leaves, are outstanding.

The goldwork of Piartal-Tuza and Capuli differ tremendously. Nonetheless, in some cases, pieces belonging to one or another of the traditions have been found at a single burial site. The Piartal-Tuzametal work stands out for its extraordinary finish, caused by using forced oxidation techniques to bring out the gold, and scraping and burnishing, which allowed designs to form that contrast in both color and texture. These techniques, commonplace in Ecuador, reached their most brilliant heights in some tumbaga disks which exhibit rich designs in two and up to three colors, obtained by using different surface treatments. Other objects common to the Piartal-Tuza.

Goldwork treasury are: Pan’s pipes, spherical bells or rattles, bells, nose ornaments, applications for textiles, and hanging plaques. Capuli goldwork on the other hand, includes pendants in anthropomorphic and geometric designs with embossed decoration, as well as bird-shaped pendants, nipple shields and ear ornaments, all generally made of pure gold.

The goldwork developments of Narino require some special commentary. Indubitably, it is clear that intensive metal work in this region is also associated with relatively complex societies. The same pattern observed for other areas is also conspicuous, in that the systematic work of hard alloys corresponds to a more highly developed society – the Pastos – while the work of pieces in purer gold corresponds to lesscomplex groups. What is peculiar in Narino is that, first of all, two types of technologically different goldwork traditions coexisted in the same area until the 16th century. Another interesting aspect of theregion’s goldwork is that as it concerns the manifestation of groups which probably arrived very late historically, it is very difficult to establish parallels with groups from other regions of Colombia.