The customs of the Muiscas encompass several cultural and sociological characteristics that can be divided into gastronomy, commerce, manufacturing and clothing or social and religious elements.
The Muiscas are an indigenous people originating in Colombia dating from the 11th century. Originally they were located south of the department of Santander, but currently their descendants occupy areas of Cundinamarca, Bogotá and Boyacá.
According to archaeological research, the first human settlements in this area date back to more than 10 thousand years BC. In the year 500 AD, numerous families from Chibcha peoples decided to settle in the Santander area, it was then that the Muisca culture was born.
From the beginning they were a sedentary population, dedicated to agriculture and the manufacture of elements with fabrics, weavings, ceramics and clay. Their main food, like that of many indigenous populations in Central and South America, was corn.
Muisca customs to review
They were great farmers, having extensive crops that they cared for thanks to advanced techniques (such as the use of canals for water irrigation).
Therefore, much of their diet was based on the harvest of fruits, vegetables and grains. As in many of the human settlements in the history of Central America and South America, corn was their favorite food, eating it in the form of tortillas, buns, arepas or chichas.
Beans, tomatoes, chili peppers, guavas, potatoes and yuccas formed the basis of their agricultural crops.
They did not domesticate animals, however hunting and fishing was part of their routine. Deer, rabbits, birds, and various kinds of fish made up their diet.
2- Manufacturing and clothing
The manufacture of clothing was taken very seriously, this art falling exclusively on women.
Since they grew cotton, this used to be the main element in their creations. They made tunics that were used on special occasions such as ceremonies or rites, these were stamped with inks of vegetable origin and adorned with feathers of various birds.
They were particularly skilled in the art of bartering and trading the elements they obtained from the land, especially salt.
Any product that they grew could be used for exchange, even establishing markets for this purpose.
Minerals such as gold, emerald or copper, were objects of common commercialization among the Muiscas, after being extracted, they were molded and polished to increase their value.
They rented land and houses under a credit system where they handled loans and interest.
4- Social organization
Its social organization had a very well defined hierarchy, divided into several layers:
• Priests. • Quechuas (Warriors). • Nobles. • Merchants and artisans. • Miners. • Slaves (They used to be prisoners of war).
The most powerful male members of the tribe, acquired the right of polygamy, although they had a “Principal” wife called güi chyty (First consort).
The priests acted as doctors or healers, to acquire this social degree they had to prepare for many years.
They worshiped nature; the sun , the moon, the water or the rainbows were considered deities. Their main god was called Chimininchagua , the Muiscas believed him to be the creator of the entire universe and the owner of light.
Among their main rites was the human sacrifice to the sun (to avoid his wrath or revenge), and also the bathing of the chiefs in the Guatavita lagoon, where they rendered idolatry to the gods by immersing themselves in the water covered in gold powder.
It was this last rite that started the myth of El Dorado among the Spanish conquerors .
Interlatin «Golden Cultures: Muiscas» in: Colombia (2014) Recovered in 2017 from colombia.com.
Source Wikipedia (2013) Indigenous Peoples of Colombia. United States: General Books.
The British Museum «Muisca and Tairona» in: The British Museum (2016) Recovered in 2017 from britishmuseum.org.
Mark Cartwright «Muisca Civilization» in: Ancient History (2015) Recovered in 2017 from ancient.eu.
Eduardo Londoño (1998) The Muiscas: a historical review based on the first descriptions. Colombia: Gold Museum.
Ecured «Muiscas (ethnicity)» in: Ecured (2014) Recovered in 2017 from ecured.cu.