Mysteries in Colombia: The mysterious sculptors of St. Agustin

Mysteries in Colombia: The mysterious sculptors of St. Agustin

Colombia is a fabulous country full of attractions and numerous activities. Also, this country has mysterious areas like St. Agustin. A century ago the German Konrad Preuss made the first excavations in St. Agustin, and even nowadays no one knows who were the mysterious sculptors of St. Agustin.  When Fray Juan de Santa Gertrudis first travelled to San Agustín, south of Huila, he was deeply disappointed. Instead of gold-plated wakas, he found enormous beasts carved with mastery of stone adorned the aborigines’ tombs. “It’s the work of the devil,” he wrote in his diary. The aborigines didn’t have iron or tools to make such a thing. These sculptures are so impressive that in the 18th-century people attributed those to the devil and in the 20th century, people believe that the authors were aliens.

Now, a century has passed since Konrad Theodor Preuss made the first archaeological investigations in the region, it’s known that neither Satan nor the aliens carved the rocks, but a mysterious agricultural society that inhabited the highest part of the Valley of Magdalena River. Apparently, its members lived peacefully for hundreds of years, but it is not clear why they disappeared. Isn’t it fascinating? Certainly, if you want to venture and discover who were the mysterious sculptors of St. Agustin, you cannot miss the opportunity to visit Colombia.

Mysteries in Colombia: The Mysterious sculptors of St. Agustin

Abandoned treasure

The more than 500 Statues that today are exhibited in the park and other surrounding were originally buried with the deceased. Most experts agree that they symbolise supernatural beings with human and animal traits that the natives built to worship death. Fray Juan was the first to describe this funeral centre in 1757 and, years later, characters such as the sage Francisco José de Caldas and the Italian geographer Agustín Codazzi also toured it.

However, it was only in 1913 that Preuss took seriously the task of studying those vestiges forgotten under the undergrowth. After a long mule ride, the German arrived in St. Agustin. His trip was part of an ambitious expedition to Mexico and Colombia with which sought to find clues on the evolution of religions. Preuss stayed for about three months in the village and at the end of his observations, he took 20 sculptures to Germany. Although it seemed an impossible feat, the statues arrived safely to the Berlin Ethnological Museum after the end of the World War I.

In 1923, the directives of the Museum organised an exhibition of the wonders that Preuss had unearthed. The public was so surprised that some compare the statues to the tomb of Tutankhamun. This is how the Colombian elite living in Europe discover that there were hidden pre-Hispanic treasures in the south of the country. The rumour expanded, and the government of Colombia decided to turn it into a reserve.

A monumental task

mysterious sculptors of St. Agustin

As most of the tombs are scattered throughout the municipality, besides good smell it took the strength of about 20 men to recover the statues up to seven meters and two tonnes. Baudelino Grijalba was one of the excavators who helped archaeologists Luis Duque Gómez and Julio César Cubillos in that titanic work during the seventies.

The pioneer

Arriving at the Colombian Massif in 1913 was an almost impossible undertaking, but that did not matter to Konrad Theodor Preuss. The ethnologist had always wanted to visit Colombia and study the mysterious sculptors of St. Agustin that he had heard of thanks to a German volcanologist who toured the region in 1869. Before embarking on the journey, Preuss also made sure to read the descriptions made by the cartographer Augustine Codazzi.

Although he was only three months in the village, he stayed five years in the country while the great European war ended. As a good explorer, he took advantage of that time to collect data on the huitotos indigenous in the Amazon and the Kogi in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. In 1929 he finally published the book Prehistoric Monumental Art, in which he recounts his findings.

What do you think about these interesting mystery? Do you want to find out who were the mysterious sculptors of St. Agustin? Undoubtedly, you cannot miss the chance to visit this fabulous valley.

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