200 A.D. – 1000 A.D.

Earlier period little known. To date it constitutes the earliest evidence of agricultural societies to inhabit the region of the central Cauca River Valley and Antioquia. Incised brown ware and occasionally ceramics similar to those of Calima Yotoco belong to this period.


Casting in the lost wax process, in pure= gold or tumbaga, of poporos, nose rings, and necklace beads.

1000 – 1600 A. D.

Great variety in ceramic traditions. The existence of small autonomous communities whose economy is based on maize agriculture. Trade networks established with the Caribbean coast, Magdalena Valley, and the southern part of the country.


Serial production of articles such as nose rings. Emphasis on tumbaga,
Dabeiba becomes a specialized gold working center.

Quimbaya, an ambiguous term which initially was used to designate only one of the many societies of the central basin of the Cauca River, has been employed in two ways: to describe a group of goldwork manifestations found in an area stretching from the Departments of Caldas and Risaralda to the central part of the Department of Antioquia; and to classify a series of indigenous groups from the Central Cordillera, probably related through their cultural production and traditions.

Here, by Quimbaya we shall be referring to an area between the central Cauca River valley, in the portion that is bordered by the Central Cordillera, and the Andes of the extreme southern part of the Department of Antioquia, thus including sectors of the Central as well as the Western Cordillera. We have defined it this way because, despite regional variations and although we are definitely not speaking of a community in ethnic nor cultural terms, we consider many of the historic processes to have been common to the groups of the region. With the Quimbaya area we leave the realm of the southern societies and enter the dominion of the northern part of the country.

Tentatively, we shall discuss the two periods of occupation in this region. Lamentably, we do so basing our knowledge on isolated data and on comparisons of style which await archaeological evaluation. A first stage corresponds to what has been called Quimbaya Classic. The discoveries associated with this tradition consist of incised brown ware and spectacular examples of goldwork. This period, which perhaps runs from the first two centuries to the 10th century A.D., had been principally characterized in the Andean region of the Departments of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio by the presence of ceramics and goldwork related to the Yotoco phase of Calima, San Agustin; and Tolima. Little is known about the lifestyle of these people. Simply there are no data on their population pattern, economy or level of sociopolitical complexity.

What has become clear is that beside pieces of Yotoco goldwork, we start to uncover evidence of a highly developed local metallurgy that is far removed from the traditional manifestations of southern goldworking. Their elaboration, both in pure gold and tumbaga, of anthropomorphic and fruit shaped poporos, helmets with embossed decoration, cast globular and tubular necklace beads, bird-shaped pendants, nose rings with lateral prolongations, and beads in the shape of human faces with gentle expressions are outstanding. Later on we shall describe how the goldwork of the societies from the northern part of the country progressed, essentially, by imitating these types of pieces:

In later eras, between the 10th and 16th centuries A.D., other gold working practices developed. In the first place, one observes the diminished interest in producing extraordinary pieces, to be replaced by an intensification of the mass production of smaller objects. There were nose rings in the shape of twisted nails, and nose rings and flat circular pendants with raised decoration. In the 16th century, the Andean mountains of the Department of Antioquia were known for the voluminous production of these articles as well as the intense mining of . alluvial gold. Dabeiba, a chiefdom which specialized in goldwork practices, traded part of their production with groups from the Caribbean coast, the Magdalena River and the southern part of the country.

The ceramics associated with the later groups are extremely varied. In the south, some of the features seem to indicate similarities with the Sonso phase of Calima. Further north they developed other traditions, characterized in some cases by excised decoration and in others by incised or tricolor decorations in red, white, and black. The tremendous variety in ceramics, whose exact regional distributions and chronological developments are still being studied, coincides with great political decentralization. In the 16th century, more than eighty important chieftains were mentioned as existing in the south. The Spaniards referred to the regional communities as groups of friends and relatives who consolidated when war occurred. In the north, the societies of Antioquia were organized in “parcialidades” (partialities), also independent among themselves. The economy of all these communities was based on the cultivation of maize complemented by a great textile activity, the exploitation of saltwater and gold mining.