Herrera Period

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The Bogotá savanna, home to the people from the Herrera Period
Dolmen at El Infiernito, site from the Herrera Period
Pictographs at Piedras del Tunjo Archaeological Park, site from the Herrera Period

The Herrera Period is a phase in the history of Colombia. It is part of the Andean preceramic and ceramic, time equivalent of the North American pre-Columbian formative and classic stages and age dated by various archaeologists.[1] The Herrera Period predates the age of the Muisca, who inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense before the Spanish conquest of the Muisca and postdates the prehistory of the region in Colombia. The Herrera Period is usually defined as ranging from 800 BCE to 800 CE,[2] although some scholars date it as early as 1500 BCE.[3]

Ample evidence of the Herrera Period has been uncovered on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense. The main archaeologists contributing to the present knowledge about the Herrera Period are the scholars Ana María Groot, Gonzalo Correal Urrego, Thomas van der Hammen, Carl Henrik Langebaek Rueda, Sylvia M. Broadbent, and Marianne Cardale de Schrimpff.


The Herrera Period is named after Lake Herrera (Laguna de la Herrera) where archaeologist Silvia Broadbent performed the first excavations on the Herrera Period in 1971. Lake Herrera is one of the many remnants of the ancient Lake Humboldt, a Pleistocene lake that existed on the Bogotá savanna. The lake with an approximate surface area of 280 hectares (30,000,000 sq ft) is situated at an altitude of 2,550 metres (8,370 ft) within the boundaries of the Cundinamarca municipality Mosquera, close to Madrid and Bojacá.[4] The site of Lake Herrera (Laguna de la Herrera) is close to the archaeological site of Aguazuque.[5]


The region of the Herrea Period and later Muisca Confederation, the Altiplano Cundiboyacense; high plateau of the central Colombian Andes has been inhabited since 12,400 years BP. The earliest evidence for inhabitation (lithic tools) are found in El Abra and Tequendama.[6] This lithic period is roughly defined as from 12,400 to 1000 BCE.[7] Later sites are Aguazuque and Checua.

Agriculture started around 5000 years before present which led to the development of more complex societies, of which the Herrera Period is one of many in the Andean civilizations. Early evidence of inhabitation has been found in Zipacón and is dated at 3270 BCE.[8] From the Herrera Period ceramic has been found.[9] The oldest ceramic evidence found dates to 2500 BP (500 BCE), except for one piece found near Tocarema and dated at 2750 BP.[10]

The people from the Herrera Period performed agriculture, as evidenced in among others the Thomas van der Hammen Reserve, named after Dutch geologist and botanist Thomas van der Hammen.[11]

The Late Herrera Period coincides with the Nahuange Period (200-900) of the Tairona.[12]

Archaeological sites[edit]

Archaeological evidence of the Herrera Period has been found in numerous places on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, among others in Sopó,[13] Soacha,[14][15] Usme,[16] Iza, Gámeza,[17] Facatativá (Piedras del Tunjo Archaeological Park), Moniquirá (El Infiernito), Chía,[18] Chita, Chiscas, Soatá, Jericó, Sativasur, Covarachía, Sativanorte and El Cocuy.[19]

The site in Soacha is one of the most important finds from the Herrera Period, dating from 400 BCE onwards, into the age of the Muisca.[20][21] At the site the remains of 2200 individual people, 274 complete ceramic pots, stone tools, seeds of cotton, maize, beans and curuba, 634 fragmented and intact spindles and 100 tunjos not used for offerings have been found in Soacha.[21]


Timeline of inhabitation of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, Colombia
TequendamaAguazuquePiedras del Tunjo Archaeological ParkGalindo, BojacáBD BacatáLake HerreraChía (Cundinamarca)ZipaquiráEl AbraChecuaTibitóSuevaEl InfiernitoHistory of ColombiaSpanish EmpireSpanish conquest of the MuiscaMuisca peopleHerrera PeriodMuisca Confederation#PrehistoryBochicaMuisca mummificationCeramicAndean preceramicMuisca agricultureHunter-gatherer
Altiplano Cundiboyacense.png


Mapa del Territorio Muisca.svg

Muisca Confederation

Altiplano Cundiboyacense (subdivisions).png


Over the years and based on new findings, various authors have defined periods of Herrera and Muisca. Regional variations also exist, listed below.

Author Name Start age End age Notes
Romano, 2003 Early Herrera 900 BCE 0 [1][22]
Late Herrera 0 700
Early Muisca 700 1100
Late Muisca 1100 1600
Kruschek, 2003 Herrera 800 BCE 800 [1][23]
Early Muisca 800 1200
Late Muisca 1200 1600
Boada, 2003 Herrera 300 BCE 200 [1]
Early Muisca 200 1000
Late Muisca 1000 1600
Cárdenas & Kleef, 1996 Herrera 1500 BCE 800 [24]
Muisca 800 1600
Peña, 1991 Early Herrera 14th century BCE 4th century BCE [1]
Middle Herrera 4th century BCE 1st century CE
Late Herrera 6th century CE 10th century CE
Early Muisca
Late Muisca
Langebaek, 1986 Herrera [1]
Schrimpff, 1981 Herrera 400 BCE 200 [1]
Muisca 1400 1500

Regional variations[edit]

Western slopes of the Eastern Ranges[edit]

Author Name Start age End age Notes
Argüello, 2004 Herrera 800 BCE 800 [1]
Pubenza 800 1000
Late Period 1000 1550
Modern >1550
Schrimpff, 1976 Period I 750 1200 [1]
Period II 1200 1550


Author Name Start age End age Notes
Langebaek, 2001 Herrera 400 BCE 700 [1]
Late Herrera 700 1000
Early Muisca 1000 1200
Late Muisca 1200 1600
Modern >1600
Boada, 2007 Late Herrera 700 1000 [1]
Early Muisca 1000 1300
Late Muisca 1300 1600

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k (in Spanish) Chronology of pre-Columbian periods: Herrera and Muisca
  2. ^ Kruschek, 2003
  3. ^ Langebaek, 1995, Ch. 4, p. 70
  4. ^ (in Spanish) Herrera Lake
  5. ^ Correal Urrego, 1990, p. 87
  6. ^ Correal Urrego, 1990, p. 29
  7. ^ (in Spanish) Lithic Period in Engativá
  8. ^ Nieto Escalante et al., 2010, p. 96
  9. ^ (in Spanish) Herrera Period evidence in Boyacá
  10. ^ Argüello García, 2015, p. 56
  11. ^ (in Spanish) Herrera Period agriculture at the Thomas van der Hammen Reserve Archived 2016-08-06 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ (in Spanish) Tairona at the Museo del Oro, Bogotá
  13. ^ (in Spanish) Herrera Period evidence in Sopó
  14. ^ (in Spanish) Herrera Period evidence in SoachaEl Espectador
  15. ^ (in Spanish) Largest Herrera Period village in Soacha Archived 2016-06-25 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ (in Spanish) Herrera Period evidence in UsmeEl Tiempo
  17. ^ (in Spanish) Herrera Period evidence in Iza and Gámeza
  18. ^ Cardale Schrimpff, 1985, p. 104
  19. ^ Cárdenas & Kleef in Reyes Zambrano, 1995, Ch. 2.1.3
  20. ^ Adriaan Alsema, Archaeologists uncover remains of pre-Columbian village in central Colombia. November 1, 2014
  21. ^ a b (in Spanish) Dating of the Soacha Herrera Period site Archived 2016-10-10 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Argüello García, 2015, p. 38
  23. ^ (in Spanish) Herrera PeriodUniversidad Nacional de Colombia
  24. ^ (in Spanish) El páramo: ecosistema de alta montaña, Chapter 2.1.3Banco de la República


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]