The Muisca Confederation of different Muisca rulers (zaques, zipas, iraca and tundama) in the central Andean highlands of present-day Colombia
Muisca Confederation was one of the best-organized confederations of tribes on the South American continent. Modern anthropologists, attributed to the present-day knowledge about the confederation and its organization

  • Capital Hunza and Bacatá (~1450–1540)
  • Common languages Muysccubun
  • Religion Muisca religion
  • Zaque and zipa
  • • ~1450–1470 zaque Hunzahúa
  • • ~1450–1470 zipa Meicuchuca
  • • 1470–1490 zaque Saguamanchica
  • • 1470–1490 zipa Michuá
  • • 1490–1537 zaque Quemuenchatocha
  • • 1490–1514 zipa Nemequene
  • • 1514–1537 zipa Tisquesusa
  • • 1537–1540 zaque Aquiminzaque
  • • 1537–1539 zipa Sagipa
  • Historical era Pre-Colombian
  • • Established ~1450
  • • Spanish conquest begins March 1537
  • • Conquest of Funza (Bacatá) 20 April 1537
  • • Conquest of Hunza 20 August 1537
  • • Destruction of the Sun Temple September 1537
  • • Foundation of Bogotá 6 August 1538
  • • Battle of Tocarema 20 August 1538
  • • Foundation of Tunja 6 August 1539
  • • Death of Tundama December 1539
  • • Execution of Aquiminzaque 1540
  • • Area 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi)
  • • Population ~2,000,000
  • • Preceded by Herrera Period
  • • Succeeded by New Kingdom of Granada
  • • Today part of Colombia, Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Santander

  • Location of the Muisca Confederation on the map of the Republic of Colombia.

    See also: Altiplano Cundiboyacense § Prehistory
    Early Amerindian settlers led a hunter-gatherer life among still extant megafauna living in cool habitats around Pleistocene lakes, of which the humedales in Bogotá, Lake Suesca, Lake Fúquene and Lake Herrera are notable examples. Multiple evidences of late Pleistocene to middle Holocene population of the Bogotá savanna, the high plateau in the Colombian Andes, have been found to date. As is common with caves and rock shelters, Tequendama was inhabited from around 11,000 years BP, and continuing into the prehistorical, Herrera and Muisca periods, making it the oldest site of Colombia, together with El Abra (12,500 BP), located north of Zipaquirá and Tibitó, located within the boundaries of Tocancipá (11,740 BP). The oldest human remains and the oldest complete skeleton were discovered at Tequendama and has been named "Hombre del Tequendama" or Homo Tequendama. Other artefacts have been found in Gachalá (9100 BP), Sueva (Junín) and Zipacón.[6] Just west of the Altiplano, the oldest archaeological remains were found; in Pubenza, part of Tocaima and have been dated at 16,000 years Before Present

    Herrera Period

  • Name Start age End age
  • Herrera 800 BCE 800
  • Early Muisca 800 1200
  • Late Muisca 1200 1537
  • Kruschek, 2003
  • Main article: 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-Colombian formative and classic stages and age dated by various archaeologists. The Herrera Period predates the age of the Muisca people, who inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense before the Spanish conquest of the Muisca and postdates the lithic formative stage and prehistory of the eastern Andean region in Colombia. The Herrera Period is usually defined as ranging from 800 BCE to 800 AD,[10] although some scholars date it as early as 1500 BCE. Ample evidence of the Herrera Period has been uncovered on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense and main archaeologists contributing to the present knowledge about the Herrera Period are scholars Ana María Groot, Gonzalo Correal Urrego, Thomas van der Hammen, Carl Henrik Langebaek Rueda, Sylvia M. Broadbent, Marianne Cardale de Schrimpff and others.

    The Muisca were polytheistic and their religion and mythology was closely connected with the natural area they were inhabiting. They had a thorough understanding of astronomical parameters and developed a complex luni-solar calendar; the Muisca calendar. According to the calendar they had specific times for sowing, harvest and the organisation of festivals where they sang, danced and played music and drank their national drink chicha in great quantities.

    The most respected members of the community were mummified and the mummies were not buried, yet displayed in their temples, in natural locations such as caves and even carried on their backs during warfare to impress their enemies.

    Their art is the most famous remnant of their culture, as living spaces, temples and other existing structures have been destroyed by the Spanish who colonised the Muisca territories. A primary example of their fine goldworking is the Muisca raft, together with more objects made of gold, tumbaga, ceramics and cotton displayed in the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, the ancient capital of the southern Muisca.

    The Muisca were a predominantly agricultural society with small-scale farmfields, part of more extensive terrains. To diversify their diet, they traded mantles, gold, emeralds and salt for fruits, vegetables, coca, yopo and cotton cultivated in lower altitude warmer terrains populated by their neighbours, the Muzo, Panche, Yarigui, Guane, Guayupe, Achagua, Tegua, Lache, Sutagao and U'wa. Trade of products grown farther away happened with the Calima, Pijao and Caribbean coastal communities around the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

    The Muisca economy was self-sufficient regarding the basic supplies, thanks to the advanced technologies of the agriculture on raised terraces by the people. The system of trade was well established providing both the higher social classes and the general population abundances of gold, feathers, marine snails, coca, yopo and other luxury goods. Markets were held every four to eight days in various settlements throughout the Muisca Confederation and special markets were organised around festivities where merchants from far outside the Andes were trading their goods with the Muisca.

    Apart from agriculture, the Muisca were well developed in the production of different crafts, using the raw materials traded with surrounding indigenous peoples. Famous are the golden and tumbaga objects made by the Muisca people. Cotton mantles, cloths and nets were made by the Muisca women and traded for valuable goods, tropical fruits and small cotton cloths were used as money. The Muisca were unique in South America for having real coins of gold, called tejuelos.

    Mining was an important source of income for the Muisca, who were called "Salt People" because of their salt mines in Zipaquirá, Nemocón and Tausa. Like their western neighbours, the Muzo -who were called "The Emerald People"- they mined emeralds in their territories, mainly in Somondoco. Carbon was found throughout the region of the Muisca in Eocene sediments and used for the fires for cooking and the production of salt and golden ornaments.

    The people used a decimal counting system and counted with their fingers. Their system went from 1 to 10 and for higher numerations they used the prefix quihicha or qhicha, which means "foot" in their Chibcha language Muysccubun. Eleven became thus "foot one", twelve "foot two", etc. As in the other pre-Colombian civilizations, the number 20 was special. It was the total number of all body extremities; fingers and toes. The Muisca used two forms to express twenty: "foot ten"; quihícha ubchihica or their exclusive word gueta, derived from gue, which means "house". Numbers between 20 and 30 were counted gueta asaqui ata ("twenty plus one"; 21), gueta asaqui ubchihica ("twenty plus ten"; 30). Larger numbers were counted as multiples of twenty; gue-bosa ("20 times 2"; 40), gue-hisca ("20 times 5"; 100). The Muisca script consisted of hieroglyphs, only used for numerals.

    Sacred sites
    Main articles: Muisca mythology and Muisca religion

    The sacred sites of the Muisca Confederation were based in the Muisca religion and mythology. The Muisca were a highly religious people with their own beliefs on the origin of the Earth and life and human sacrifices were no exception to please the gods for good harvests and prosperity.

    Lake Guatavita, Guatavita, was the location where the new zipa would be inaugurated. It became known with the Spanish conquerors as the site of El Dorado where the new zipa was covered in gold dust and installed as the new ruler of the southern Muisca.

    In the legends of the Muisca, mankind originated in Lake Iguaque, Monquirá, when the goddess Bachué came out from the lake with a boy in her arms. When the boy grew, they populated the Earth. They are considered the ancestors of the human race. Finally, they disappeared unto the lake in the shape of snakes.

    According to Muisca myths, the Tequendama Falls, outside Soacha, was the site where the first zipa Meicuchuca lost his beautiful lover who turned in a snake and disappeared in the waters of the Bogotá River.

    El Infiernito, close to the present town of Villa de Leyva was a sacred site where the Muisca erected structures based on astronomical parameters.

    Other sacred sites

  • • Sun Temple, Sogamoso
  • • Hunzahúa Well, Tunja
  • • Goranchacha Temple, Tunja
  • • Cojines del Zaque, Tunja
  • • Moon Temple, Chía


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