The Mysterious Ruins of San Augustin in Huila Dept. in Colombia
The Archaeological Park is a 78 hectare site with around 130 statues on display, located in the San Augustin region in the upper Magdalena River Valley in the more than beautiful Huila Dept. in Colombia. Called by UNESCO “the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America”, San Augustin is the home to one of the most important archaeological sites. The area is covered with freestanding monumental statues carved in volcanic rock that represent ancient indigenous rituals. Archaeologists estimate that the statues were created between 100 BC and 800 AD by an advanced civilization that mysteriously disappeared 1500 years ago.
The statues, that are 1 to 7 meters tall and that can weight over a ton, were markers of ceremonial and burial sites, where this ancient civilization would bury the dead with some of their personal objects. The ceremonial sites contain large burial mounds connected to one another by terraces, paths, and earthen causeways. This was clearly a sacred place, an ancient place of worship. Some of statues had the role of guardians of these places: they protected the funeral rooms, the monolithic sarcophagi and the burial sites. It is estimated that the statues are just a small fraction of what is still buried underneath.
The designs are very detailed and elaborate, some of them can seem very “psychedelic” (grinning demons, the glaring eagle with the snake in its beak, a man pulling a lizard from his mouth). There are suggestions that the early inhabitants of the area used a psychedelic brew called Ayahuasca that could have influenced their designs. Some people go as far as suggesting that the psychedelic element is the common thread responsible for the many similarities between the artifacts of different ancient civilizations.
There are other archaeological sites in San Augustin besides the Parque Arqueologico. These include Alto de los Idoles, El Tablon, La Chaquira, La Pelota, and El Purutal. All can be visited by walking. The Parque Arqueologico is open 8am to 4pm everyday. Adults pay COP 20,000, students COP 10,000, and children COP 5,000.