Colombia and Germany have embarked on a joint archaeological venture in San Agustin, located in Colombia’s Huila department. This partnership aims to delve into the mysteries of a millenary culture that once thrived in southern Colombia. The Ethnological Museum of Berlin, which has safeguarded San Agustin artifacts for over a century, plays a pivotal role in this international effort.
This was announced by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after a visit to the archaeological park of San Agustín by the German ethnologist Christian Koch, director of the Berlin museum that houses Colombian artifacts. The German ambassador to Colombia, Yadir Salazar, and Colombian experts also participated in the visit.
Germans, pioneers in the study of San Agustin
During the technical visit to the archaeological complex, conversations were resumed about the ethnological and archaeological studies of the early twentieth century by renowned Germans such as Konrad Theodor Preuss, who made the first scientific excavations in the field of zoomorphic figures, carved in volcanic stone, which are still a subject of study for Colombian and foreign researchers.
“The museum I am in charge of is a collaborative museum: as we have done in Nigeria and Venezuela, we finance and stimulate research, the exchange of knowledge and active work with local communities,” explained Professor Koch concerning the cooperation policy maintained by the entity he directs in Berlin.
For its part, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted to emphasize that this process of integration of the pieces in Germany with their place of origin in Colombia is “the result of the work of cultural diplomacy carried out (…) through the Colombian Embassy in Germany”.
San Agustin, an important pre-Hispanic culture
The archaeological park of San Agustin is today one of the main archaeological sites in Colombia, located on the vortex formed by the central and eastern mountain ranges, in the south of the Alto Magdalena, near the source of the Magdalena River, in the south of the department of Huila. To date, it is the largest known and studied necropolis in the world.
Different historical periods have been categorized, from approximately 3000 BC to the most recent phase that originates around 800 AD and until the arrival of the European conquerors, when the culture goes into decline and disappears.
The park was created in 1935 and sixty years later was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Today it is one of the most visited places in Colombia by those interested in pre-Hispanic cultures, both nationals and foreigners.
Although the site was known for centuries, it gained scientific prominence through the work of Konrad Theodor Preuss in 1914. His pioneering efforts in photographing the sculptures and identifying looted mounds brought global attention to San Agustin, cementing its place in the annals of pre-Hispanic studies.