SINU CLASSIC  ? – 1000 A.D.

Occupation by root crop agricultural societies. Construction of villages near rivers. Canals and ridges regulated water supply. Centralized political organization.


Objects similar to those of the Quimbaya Classic tradition were cast using the lost wax process.

LATE SINU 1000 – 1600 A.D.

Greater emphasis on maize rather than root agriculture. Development of specialized artisans. Specialized places for producing salt, gold work and, textiles. Fishing was also an important activity.


Emphasis on casting articles using the lost wax process. Greater utilization of tumbaga than pure gold.

During the first thousand years of our era, at the height of the introduction of maize agriculture in other parts of the country, the area of the lower San Jorge River and vast neighboring zones were inhabited by societies that cultivated root crops and lived in centralized villages, built on platforms near the numerous rivers and pools of the region. The people of this period of occupation cleared more than 200,000 acres of land to cultivate manioc. By constructing canals and ridges, they were able to regulate the flow of water in periods of both drought and flooding. In other words, the history of these communities is one of extraordinary technical development, associated with root crop horticulture. However, even though later than in other places, here too maize agriculture eventually replaced the intensive cultivation of manioc, favoring profound changes in their lifestyle.

The early dense occupation of the region, associated with the construction of canals and ridges, is linked to groups that produced incised ceramics and manufactured pieces of goldwork which imitated designs and techniques from Quimbaya Classic. Although it would be presumptuous to assume that the enormous territory containing agricultural infrastructure was completely under cultivation at a given time, it would seem reasonable to presume that these societies were relatively complex, capable of deploying an abundant work force for agricultural purposes. This would imply a centralized organization of he labor force, and, therefore, the existence of civil specialists. This seems ratified, certainly, by the existence of enormous funerary mounds equipped with rich burial offerings that denote important hierarchies, and by the widespread diffusion of figurines representing political and religious leaders.

In periods following 900 A.D., the area of the lower Magdalena was occupied by diverse societies classified as Malibu. They were groups of maize agriculturists each of which conserved their political independence, except in times of war, when military leaders assumed political control. Little is known of the relationship between these groups, and the occupation prior to their existence. Some authors are inclined to believe that they were “invaders”, but even if this is true ,we still have no knowledge concerning the pressures and conditions that led to population movements.

When the Spaniards arrived, the northern part of Colombia was characterized by a notable development of regional specialization in craft production. The- Malib6, in addition to intensely cultivating maize, dedicated an important part of their time to hunting and fishing. The areas surrounding the population of Mompos were well known for cotton, abundant fishing, and gold working. The natives of Galerazamba; north of Cartagena, were famed for the production of salt and fish, while San Jacinto specialized in textiles.

Sinu gold working from the early periods corresponds, as has already been noted, to developments similar to .those of Quimbaya Classic. The Sinu produced pure gold decorative figures as staff ends, pectorals, nose rings, and representations of animals with raised tails, which denote ties to the societies of the Andes of Antioquia, Uraba, and Central America. Later, the elaboration of tumbaga staff ends would be their predominant gold working activity, particularly in the lower Magdalena River Valley. Mompos, for its part, had specialized in casting tumbaga nose rings and ear ornaments. Once again, as in the south, the manufacture of large quantities of objects replaces the production of few, but spectacular, pieces. The difference, however, is that for the Sinu, as in the northern part of the country in general, we are referring to late goldwork developments, which from their outset included knowledge of techniques for casting with the lost wax process and smelting complex alloys.