Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cave Paintings in Cueva La Conga, Nicaragua

Some months ago, reports appeared in the media announcing the discovery of cave paintings in the Department of Jinotega, Nicaragua, by Suzanne Baker, who has been working in the country for many years, mainly studying petroglyphs. The discovery of Cueva la Conga was interesting for several reasons. First, most of Nicaragua is volcanic, and so most of the caves are lava tubes, but Cueva la Conga is a limestone solution cavern, located in a small region of karst near the border with Honduras. Second, cave paintings, as opposed to petroglyphs, are rare in Nicaragua. Third, the central and eastern parts of Jinotega are remote, dangerous, and almost completely unexplored. So, any archaeological discovery in the region is interesting news. Here is a link to Suzanne Baker’s website describing the discovery.

I bring this up because of a new report on an effort to radiocarbon date the paintings by Dr. Ruth Ann Armitage at Eastern Michigan University. She is using new techniques that I haven’t heard of, so it will be interesting to find out how they work. Here’s the article.

I would love to visit Jinotega. It’s reputed to be a beautiful, coffee-growing region is the cool, misty highlands. Jinotega is supposed to mean “City of the Mists” (Ciudad de las Brumas). The closest I’ve been to Jinotega is the Finca Selva Negra, north of Matagalpa, which was indeed lovely.

Check out Jinotga on Google Earth. See how the eastern part is all green? This is a large patch of rainforest that has not been explored archaeologically. Much of it falls with the Boswas Biosphere Reserve, a protected conservation area. One reason Jinotega has not been surveyed is that it was heavily mined during the Contra War and it has not been completely demined. Demining efforts were significantly complicated by the effects of Hurricane Mitch, which caused extensive erosion and landslides that moved mines around. A couple of days ago, I watched Carla’s Song, a very powerful movie about the Contra War. It’s worth watching.

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