May 16, 2022 2:18 pm

They built a highway and found the remains of an unknown American civilization from the year 800 BC

For a long time the historical landscape of the first human communities that inhabited the foothills of the plains (Colombia) was almost a desert. Although there is a record of them in the chronicles of the settlers who undertook expeditions in the foothills of the Eastern Cordillera, documents that mention populations of ‘Indians’ in the Opía River (Upía) with different languages, who lived in bohíos or houses of admirable grandeur and with impetus and rejection of the conquerors, who always presented a fight, these were made invisible to the point of being grouped into a single category: the guayupes.

For this reason, although it is accepted that this region was inhabited by human groups in pre-Hispanic periods, little is known about which ethnic groups lived there, and even for a long time it was associated with groups that did not have a material culture that could be traced. A conception that has been transformed by studies carried out in recent decades, but about which much remains to be discovered.

Thus, the finding made in the last two years in the framework of the construction and improvement project of the new 4G highway Villavicencio-Yopal. What was initially projected as an area of ​​low archaeological interest in previous studies has now become one of the largest excavations in the country, with nearly 10 hectares, where 334 representative pieces were recovered and approximately 9 tons of vestiges (between ceramics and lithics) that They were part of pots, bowls, urns or tools of pre-Hispanic communities that inhabited the Llanos Orientales region.

The monitoring planned within the Preventive Archeology Program implemented by the Concesionaria Vial del Oriente (Covioriente), in charge of this 4G project, allowed many more archaeological sites to be identified in the impact regions of the work at the start of the construction stages, discoveries that, according to the archaeologists who participated in the project, were made during the stripping stages – in which the grass is removed —, which made it possible to safeguard the heritage.

With an investment close to 10,000 million pesos —it is projected that the total investment will rise to 15,000 million pesos (more than 3.5 million dollars)—, the archeology program encompasses activities of monitoring, excavation and rescue of pieces; specialized laboratory, final report, socialization to the interested parties and disposal of the archaeological material, in accordance with the guidelines established by the regulations of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH).

The Covioriente archeology program has generated 434 direct jobs, of which 94% belong to the area of ​​influence of the 11 municipalities of the corridorCovioriente

This is how, since 2018, 55 sites with archaeological elements were identified in the municipalities of Restrepo, Cumaral (Meta), Paratebueno (Cundinamarca) and Monterrey (Casanare), places where there are traces of communities that inhabited the Llanero territory hundreds of years ago. years and an opportunity to expand the limited knowledge we have about the first populations that inhabited the foothills, as stated by the manager of Covioriente, Miguel Vargas.

“The work carried out allowed not only to safeguard the vestiges that were in the area of ​​influence of the project, but also to amplitude of the excavations that cover several municipalities and departments brought with it the possibility of knowing and study the pre-Hispanic societies that occupied the region. It is the first time that so much information about the human groups that lived in the Eastern Plains of Colombia, with which the concessionaire will make large investments to carry out the necessary studies in order to generate great cultural value and tourism potential for the region”, he affirms.

According to the archaeologist Juan Carlos Rubiano archeology coordinator of Covioriente, despite being a region in which a large amount of research was carried out, it is also one of the areas in which most of the studies resulted in no evidence of material.

“It is the recent ones that showed findings because they are construction projects that cover larger areas, both works related to hydrocarbons and roads. In recent years, this has transformed the image of the Llano”.

Thus, what was believed to be nomadic societies with few vestiges and high mobility, projects such as the Villavicencio-Yopal corridor began to show that they did have large settlements, in addition to patterns of occupation that were different from those originally believed.

“It was thought that these housing areas were fundamentally in high areas, protecting themselves from floods and from all the processes of the rivers in the region, but what was identified, for example, in the framework of the road corridor project, is that there are many deposits, especially in the department of Meta, that are in low-lying areas, prone to flooding,” says Rubiano.

According to the expert, this conception could be making it difficult for archaeologists to find traces of these pre-Hispanic societies because they were possibly looking “in places where it was not.” A panorama in which preventive archeology provided new possibilities by involving research processes in areas that are reached without preconceived ideas.

“Now we see much more sedentary societies, which had small villages, several groupings of houses around some specific sites, although there were also patterns of occupation of isolated houses. More complex societies than was thought until very recently are becoming evident”, says archaeologist Rubiano.

In fact, from the ICANH it is highlighted that the management measures of the road project allowed to expand the knowledge of the settlement patterns of the human groups that inhabited the region; to get closer to understanding their relationships with space and the way in which they located their daily activities, and to refine the chronological sequences and ceramic typologies in the region, which will facilitate the work of future researchers.

The municipality with the highest number of identified archaeological sites was Cumaral with 25, followed by Paratebueno with 13 and Restrepo with 6.
The municipality with the highest number of identified archaeological sites was Cumaral with 25, followed by Paratebueno with 13 and Restrepo with 6.Covioriente

“Likewise, we hope that specialized analyzes will contribute to a more detailed understanding of these settlement patterns and ways of life, give us greater clarity about the dates of the occupations (and the materials associated with them), and allow us to come closer to understanding those relationships and transitions between the foothills and the plain”, says Silvia Mathilde Stoehr Rojas, an anthropologist at ICANH.

According to the entity, intensive surveys, stratigraphic excavations and verification and monitoring activities were implemented on the scene of these works, which allowed the identification of archaeological areas that are presumed to correspond to main, secondary and auxiliary dwellings; possible burial sites (inside and outside the domestic areas, although the presence of bone remains must be verified with subsequent micro-excavation and it must be determined whether they are human or animal), cultivated areas, transit areas, garbage dump sites, ritual areas , as well as specific work areas within the spaces.

This allows interpretations to be made around the areas of activity in the sites and the political differentiation within the communities that lived there in pre-Hispanic times.

Until now, In the works of Covioriente, a significant number of incised red ceramics were identified, with occupational patterns of the formative period, that is, civilizations that would date from the years 800 and 500 BC. C., and goes until 1,500 d. c. A process in which it was highlighted that, in accordance with the heritage conservation and preservation methodology, nearly 69,000 cubic meters of earth were removed manually (without the use of heavy tools), with the help of 434 workers, the vast majority of whom were the region, who were linked for such work.

Pots, bowls, urns or tools from pre-Hispanic communities that inhabited the Llanos Orientales region are part of the discovery
Pots, bowls, urns or tools from pre-Hispanic communities that inhabited the Llanos Orientales region are part of the discoveryCovioriente

“The aim was to involve people from the region with the intention of generating employment and knowledge in the area, following the regulations that exist,” explains archaeologist Rubiano. To this end, men and women were selected who received constant training on how to identify stone, bone, metal and ceramic objects; and how they are washed, preserved and analyzed, among other topics related to archaeology.

”This meant that today there are personnel from the region who are highly trained in how to carry out excavations in detail, how to protect the remains, what to do if something is found; they can know if they are early, if they are late”, assures the expert, who adds that these workers were accompanied by a group of 20 archaeologists who supervised and guided the rescue task.

Now the pieces went to a laboratory phase in which the containers will be cleaned and micro-excavated to extract the remains of earth and possible rocks, seeds, charred wood and bone remains that they may have inside. In addition to carrying out specialized carbon 14 tests and fat analysis on these materials that will help reconstruct the history of these inhabitants of the Llano.

A knowledge that we also want to continue bringing closer to the inhabitants of the regions of the findings. Objective for which Covioriente and the University Corporation of Meta (Unimeta) signed an agreement in order to disseminate and bring the findings found in the corridor closer to students, teachers and the community in general.

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