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Colombia, History

Relics of one of the most fascinating but little-studied civilizations in the western hemisphere have been found at San Augustin, near the source of the Magdalena River in the Colombian Andes. Little is known about the people who made these stone statues, relief carvings, sepulchral chambers, and shrines, or when their culture flourished. Present estimates date the beginnings of San Augustin to the last five centuries bc.

The stone statues are generally anthropomorphic figures, many with grotesque expressions. They have been found in caves and on mounds, where their presence seems to have had a ritual significance. Frequently, one figure is placed astride the shoulders and back of another. One particularly striking statue, a bird holding a serpent in its beak and thought to be a fertility symbol, is similar in imagery to the emblem of the Aztecs.

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