2500 Year Old Ancient Petroglyphs Discovered in the Eco Canyon at Nya, in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

by | Nov 27, 2021 | News

A recent project at the Eco Canyon at Nya, led by Museo del Banco Central de Costa Rica, has unearthed an exciting discovery in the northern province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. 

Working with leading national and international experts, teams at Museo del Banco Central have identified petroglyphs dating as far back as 2500 years ago; an era believed to be around when the Mayan culture began to become established.

Since these discoveries, specialized organizations have been studying the entirety of Guanacaste, in search of more archeological treasures. Regional hotspots, such as those areas close to volcanoes in Liberia, Cañas, Tilaran and Bagaces, have thus far yield tremendous results. 

The petroglyph findings have helped shape our understanding of ancient civilizations of Central America. But what are petroglyphs?

Many, I am sure, have heard of the ancient Egyptian use of hieroglyphics; a written language using pictograms. Similarly, petroglyphs were used to convey messages and ideas. However, unlike hieroglyphs, they do not form any particular language; just merely a depiction of simple objects to complex ideologies. 

Typically, petroglyphs are carved directly onto wall faces, using basic tools such as stone chisels and hammerstone. When the outermost layer of rock is removed, a lighter rock underneath is exposed. The photographs displayed on this image where taken by geologists, invited to Nya to help with the petroglyph project.

With the recent discoveries, teams are just now piecing together pieces from this ancient puzzle. It is thought that northern regions of Guanacaste become a complex of ancient civilization. 

The naturally occurring land bridge, or Isthmus of Panama, that connects North and South America, has shaped the development of cultures in Central America. At approximately 800 AD, a diverse community of tribes flourished in the region, with Mayan communities from the North migrating down South, and Southern communities extending further North. 

Although perhaps not instantly recognizable as identifiable objects or images, the discoveries have shed a light on ancient life in the region. 

The work undertaken in Guanacaste would not be possible without the dedication and funding from organizations across the globe. The PRAG (Proyecto Arqueológico Guanacaste) is supported by the Institut Francais d’Amérique Centrale (IFAC), the Laboratoire d’Archéologie des Amériques (ArchAm, UMR 8096), the Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica (MBCCR), the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG), the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (Department of Ancient American Studies) and the Deutsche Altamerika Stiftung (DAS).

Further project partners are the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, the Centro de Estudios Mexicanos y Centroamericanos (CEMCA) and the Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP).

With the recent petroglyphic findings, Nya is the gift that keeps on giving. It is the perfect place to explore while being surrounded by a world-class community and natural environment.

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