Quimbaya

02
  • Environment and Geography

    The Quimbaya culture was located in present-day Colombia, in the middle reaches of the Cauca River, a region of mountainous rainforest with high peaks and narrow valleys.

  • Economy and Technology

    The Quimbaya are known almost exclusively from chance findings and museum collections, making it difficult to identify many aspects of their culture. Nevertheless, given the sophistication of their metalwork, which indicates that they had artisans working full time on their craft, they are thought to have operated a surplus economy that was probably based on terraced agriculture.

  • Art

    The Quimbaya were highly skilled metalworkers, especially in gold. They made complex alloys to achieve different colored metals and delicate arrangements. Commonly manufactured items include nose ornaments, bells, bracelets, pitchers, bottles, diadems, ceremonial statuettes, and masks. To make these items they used complex techniques such as hammering and the lost wax technique. The Quimbaya ceramic industry was divided into several traditions: fruit- and flower-shaped vessels are ascribed to the Marrón Inciso tradition, while other items with white, red or cream colored slip and incised or painted geometric designs represent the Cauca Medio Complex, and the use of negative painting has been identified as the Caldas Complex.

  • Social Organization

    Though little is known about the Quimbaya people, they are thought to have lived in small chiefdoms. Differences in grave goods suggest that their society was stratified, while the sophistication of some of their artwork, especially metalwork, would have required specialized craftspeople.

  • Religion and Funerary Practices

    To bury their dead, the Quimbaya built rectangular tombs as well as complex burial chambers. Some of the more elaborate tombs contained multiple bodies accompanied by a large and varied array of grave goods.

  • Settlement Pattern

    The Quimbaya people lived in dense settlements dotted throughout the territory from the Cauca River Valley to the Central Mountain Range. Like their growing fields, their villages were situated on terraces built into the hillside.

  • History

    The Quimbaya are thought to have had contact with groups from Central America, especially the Diquies people, with whom they shared some metalwork techniques.

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