Altiplano Cundiboyacense: Muisca Culture (Colombia)

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Altiplano Cundiboyacense: Muisca Culture (Colombia)

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 19:04

The Altiplano Cundiboyacense is a high plateau located in the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes. The most important city is the capital Bogotá. The altiplano corresponds to the territory of the indigenous Muisca, a culture that flourished in ancient Colombia between 600 and 1600 CE.

Altiplano Cundiboyacense

The Altiplano Cundiboyacense is a high plateau located in the Cordillera Occidental (Eastern Range) of the Colombian Andes, covering parts of the departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá. The Altiplano corresponds to the ancient territory of the Muisca. The most important city is the Colombian capital Bogotá.

The Altiplano Cundiboyacense comprises three distinctive flat regions; the Bogotá savanna, the Ubaté and Chiquinquirá valleys, and the Duitama and Sogamoso valleys.

The altitude of the Altiplano ranges from roughly 2,500 - 4,000 m (8,200 - 13,000 ft). The Altiplano hosts many rivers and lakes. The limits of the Altiplano are not strictly defined. The high plateau is enclosed by the higher mountains of the Eastern Ranges, with the Sumapaz mountains in the south and Chingaza to the east.

The average temperature on the Altiplano is 14 °C (57 °F), ranging from 0 - 24 °C (32 - 75 °F). The driest months of the year are from December to March, while rain is more common in April, May, September, October, and November. From June to August, strong winds are present. Hail is common.

The Altiplano Cundiboyacense is subdivided into three major valleys, from northeast to southwest:

  • Iraca Valley

  • Ubaté-Chiquinquirá Valley

  • Bogotá savanna

The Altiplano Cundiboyacense is surrounded by and contains various unique Andean ecosystems. To the south, the Sumapaz Páramo (the largest in the world) forms a natural boundary of the Altiplano.

Chingaza contains páramo vegetation, as does the Ocetá Páramo in the northeast. On the Altiplano, the microclimate surrounding Lake Iguaque also produces a páramo.

Location of Altiplano Cundiboyacense and Muisca culture in Colombia

Map depicting the location of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense and territory of the Muisca culture

Muisca Culture

The Muisca (or Chibcha) are an indigenous people and culture of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense in Colombia. They flourished in ancient Colombia between 600 and 1600 CE. Their territory encompassed what is now Bogotá and its environs, and they have gained lasting fame as the origin of the El Dorado legend.

They formed the Muisca Confederation before the Spanish conquest, a loose confederation of different Muisca rulers in the central Andean highlands.

The people spoke Muysccubun, a language of the Chibchan language family. As one of four advanced civilizations of the Americas (the other being the Aztec, Maya, and Inca), they were encountered by conquistadors ordered by the Spanish Empire in 1537, at the time of the conquest.

The Muisca people did not build grand stone architecture, unlike the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas. Instead, their settlements were relatively small and consisted of bohíos, circular houses of wood and clay organized around a central market square with the cacique (chief) house in the center. Roads were present to connect the settlements and with the surrounding indigenous groups.

The Muisca territory spanned around 25,000 sq km (9,700 sq mi) from the north of Boyacá to the Sumapaz Páramo and from the summits to the western portion of the Eastern Ranges.

Their territory bordered the lands of the Panche in the west, the Muzo in the northwest, the Guane in the north, the Lache in the northeast, the Achagua in the east, and the Sutagao in the south.

At the time of the Spaniard invasion, the area had a large population, although the number of inhabitants was unknown. Estimates vary from 500,000 - 3,000,000 inhabitants. Their economy was based on agriculture, salt mining, trading, metalworking, and manufacturing.

In modern times, the population of the Muisca has drastically decreased, although descendants of the Muisca are still present. The Ministry of Interior Affairs census in 2005 counted 14,051 Muisca descendants in Colombia.