Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nica Archaeology: The History of Lakes & Volcanos

Central America is a major hub in the world for amazing archaeology, and Nicaragua has plenty of history to add to the region’s cultural richness.

Before the coming of the Europeans, the Aztecs had begun to populate the area as a religious pilgrimage site. According to legend, a woman had a dream of a land filled with lakes and volcanoes to the south. She then led many Aztec explorers to settle Cocibolca and Xolotlan (Lakes Nicaragua and Managua).

The name Nicaragua supposedly comes from the Aztec chief that the conquistadors met, Nicarao, which means Aztec’s End.

Nicaragua played a major role in Spanish colonization of the New World. Granada is one of the oldest cities in the western hemisphere.

Outside the city is the country’s biggest archaeological museum. It’s still on my to-do list before leaving Nicaragua. However, I’ve still managed to see lots of really cool ancient and historical things in my time here.

The first that I visited was my trip to Ometepe. The museum focused on pre-Columbian artifacts from the island. Tons of domestic tools and ritual items had been found all over.

The guide didn’t speak much English though and I felt like she didn’t have much of a grasp on the native’s lives. She kept referring to the ritual pipes as something they used to smoke weed.

The museum wasn’t fantastic in the displays or information for guests. However they did have one artifact that surprised me, the world’s oldest dildo. I’ll just say this, it’s huge!

Another place that shows were the ancestors of the Nicaraguans left their mark is a river called Cara de Mono. The name means monkey face do to all the ancient petroglyphs on the rocks of the river bottom.

My counterpart took me out there one day after I had told him that I had a passion for archaeology. We hiked down to the river, about a 30 minute hike down some treacherous slopes and jungle.
When we got to the river we walked along until we saw the two dozen or so faces carved into the rocks. No one knows who put them there or why.

The third historical site Kathya and I have visited was the Casa Cultural of Corn Island. The island’s history is painted all over the walls, from the days of the natives and pirates to corn plantations and the modern lobster economy.

Our most recent journey through history was our trip to El Castillo. We went up the Rio San Juan to see the bastion of colonial Spanish power to protect against the real pirates of the Caribbean.

Nicaragua is full of history and the list of places that captivate that rich past is long. We have only scratched the surface. Kathya and I will keep exploring these sites and I hope that we can continue even after we leave Nicaragua as we go off into the unknown.

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