Friday, March 30, 2012

Ruins of Guayabo

The ancient city Guayabo.  All that is left of the homes are the circular platforms on which they stood.

March 16th I went on a field trip with one of my classes to Guayabo, one of the few pre-Colombian ruins in Costa Rica. Guayabo is a pre-Colombian city that was abandoned in 1400A.D. about 100 years before the Spaniards visited the area.  No one is sure why Guayabo was abandoned but it was probably due to an invading tribe or disease.  The question then remains why the invading group did not stay and live in Guayabo.  Guayabo was a large city that may have supported up to 10,000 people.  Most of the surrounding cities probably had populations of 2000 people.  The area has been inhabited since 1000 B.C. but reached it's peak as a religious and political center for the region around 1200 or 700 years ago.  There are large roads that can still be seen leading away from Guayabo in numerous directions and stretch on for miles.

The main road leading into Guayabo. After about 1/4 mile, the road narrows to a smaller stone path leading to the nearest town.
Unfortunately, Guayabo was not untouched before the archeologists arrived to study it in 1882.  The area had been farmed for many years and many of the large stones had been moved and the graves had been plundered.  However, the main city and road remained mostly untouched.  The circle mounds covered in grass are the platforms where the houses were built.  The houses were conical and would house the whole family (15 people easily)!  The size and height of the platform indicated the political and religious importance of the family.  The largest pound in the center belonged to the shaman or cacique of the city.  The shaman was the religious leader as well as their doctor.  The cacique was the political leader of the city.  While the hierarchy was important in political/religious dealings, everyone was considered important in the city because everyone was needed in order for the economy of the city to flourish.  Without farmers no one would eat, without artisans there would be nothing to trade, etc. 

Guyabo is also unique because it has a system of underground and open aquifers that still work today after thousands of years as well as large water storage tanks.  The aquifers run underneath the main roads of the city.  Another amazing feature of Guayabo are the stones that can be found throughout the forest that have carvings of animals on them.  Guayabo may not be as impressive as the ruins of the Mayans or Aztecs but it is still an impressive site.  Archeologists estimate that about half of the city still waits to be excavated underneath the jungle that has covered it for hundreds of years.

Pura Vida

Can you guess name this animal?  It's a reptile with a long tail and sharp teeth.  If you guessed alligator, your right!  On the other side is a jaguar.