Diquís

02
  • Environment and Geography

    The Diquís culture arose in the territory of what is now Costa Rica, along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea and in the inland mountains and valleys. This area is a resource-rich tropical forest, although the Pacific watershed has a dry summer season. The word diquís means Great Waters or Great River in the Boruca language, and the delta of the great Diquís River is a major feature of the region’s geography.

  • Economy

    The Diquís economy was based on the cultivation of manioc, pejibaye, and squash. They practiced slash-and-burn agriculture as well as hunting and gathering, particularly of aquatic resources. They also traded and exchanged their products to obtain goods and natural resources from distant lands.

  • Art

    The Diquís culture is well known for its fine metalwork, particularly in gold and in the gold-copper alloy known as tumbaga. These metals were used to produce large quantities of finely worked pendants, bracelets, ornaments, earpieces, and adornments for clothing, many with images of jaguars and eagles. Other finds attribute to this culture include funeral masks and figurines, most representing birds. Apart from their work in gold, the Diquís are renowned for their stone sculptures, such as the large stone spheres found near cemeteries and the jaguar-shaped corn grinders, which display influences from groups that inhabited the territory of modern-day Colombia. Stone statues and effigies depict dead individuals and chiefs, carrying trophy heads or in positions of prayer. Others are male, female, or figures of indeterminate sex that are naked but marked with incisions that represent adornments such as necklaces and bracelets, body paint, and tattoos. The Diquís culture produced reddish-brown ceramic vessels that were decorated mainly by modeling and often included a tripod base. Decoration often takes the form of crocodiles or fishes. These ceramic pieces are often found alongside other vessels painted with red and black on a cream background and featuring simple geometric motifs, and other very thin-walled works modeled in animal shapes.

  • Social Organization

    Little information exists regarding the social organization of this culture, but it is believed to have been governed by chiefs or caciques, each ruling over a particular domain.

  • Beliefs and Funerary Practices

    Diquís cemeteries varied by region. In mountainous areas, they built isolated tombs with platforms and walls made of pebbles, while in lowland regions burials were marked with large vertical stone slabs, sometimes forming true burial cists. Most graves have been found in large cemeteries built on steep hillsides. They are individual graves, each marked with a circle of partially buried stones and containing a rich array of grave goods

  • Settlement Pattern

    Diquís settlements were located on the wide plains adjacent to the region’s largest rivers. Pebbles were used both as a building material and to create the mounds upon which they situated their dwellings. Several types of settlements attributed to the Diquís people have been discovered, some of which combine ceremonial areas, cemeteries, and residences. These settlements feature carved stone platforms, sometimes rectangular in shape, distributed amongst what appear to have been dwellings. Embedded stone monoliths made from columns of basalt up to 4 meters high were placed near and on top of these platforms. Other settlements were strictly residential, with circular pebble foundations, terraces with retaining walls, and cobbled roadways. This type of settlement is found mainly near major rivers and is often associated with cemeteries on higher terraces.

  • History

    The Diquís may have arisen from local groups that were influenced by more southerly groups, particularly those that inhabited the territories of modern day Colombia. This impact would explain the intensified use of agriculture and the typically South American cultural elements (camelids, coca use, ceramic styles, etc.). The Diquís occupied the territory of modern day Costa Rica until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

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