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Introducing Tierradentro

Like San Agustín, Tierradentro is a remote and enchanted place where green, mist-shrouded hills hold the remains of a civilization that disappeared centuries before Europeans first arrived here. Whereas San Agustín is noted for its statuary, Tierradentro is remarkable for its elaborate underground tombs. So far, archeologists have discovered about a hundred of these unusual funeral temples - the only examples of their kind in the Americas.

Measuring 2m to 7m in diameter, the tombs are scooped out of the soft volcanic rock that forms the region's undulating hillsides. They vary widely in depth; some of them are just below ground level, while others are as deep as 9m. The domed ceilings of the largest tombs are supported by massive pillars. Many are painted with red and black geometric motifs on white back- ground. In addition, figures are carved into the columns and walls of many chambers.

Little is known about the people who built the tombs and the statues. Most likely they were of different cultures, and the people who scooped out the tombs preceded those who carved the statues. Some researchers place the 'tomb' civilization somewhere between the 7th and 9th centuries AD, while the 'statue' culture appears to be related to the later phase of San Agustín development, which is estimated to have taken place some 500 years later.

While conditions have improved, the Tierradentro region has been notorious for a strong guerrilla presence over the years. Check safety conditions carefully before heading out.