Muiscas (ethnic group)

The Muisca culture or Chibcha culture is an indigenous people that inhabited the Cundiboyacense highlands and the south of the department of Santander (in the territory of present-day Colombia ) between 600 BC. n. and. and today. In 1600 its inhabitants were subdued by the Spanish. Their direct descendants currently live in localities in the Bogotá district such as Suba and Bosa , and in neighboring municipalities such as Cota , Chía and Sesquilé .

The word muyska means ‘people’ or ‘people’ in the Muisca language .

Muisca culture refers to a nation of the Chibcha culture that formed the Muisca confederation. The Muiscas made gold pieces using the tumbaga technique, which consisted in the use of a higher proportion of copper in the gold alloy.

The center of the territory that today forms the Republic of Colombia – and that was previously called the New Kingdom of Granada – was inhabited by peaceful and organized indigenous people, farmers and dresses, descendants of the Chibcha linguistic family from Central America and who called themselves The same “muiscas” or “flies.”

His homeland was the rich savannas of Zipaquirá , Nemocom , Ubate , Chiquinquirá , Tunja and Sogamoso , included among the sources of several rivers: the Upía, which descends to the Orinoco ; from Chicamocha , Suárez , Opón and Carare , which go north; from the Negro Cundinamarqués river and on the Funza that, running from Northeast to Southeast, looks for the Magdalena .


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  • 1 History
  • 2 Geographical location
  • 3 Culture
  • 4 Socio-political organization
  • 5 Way of life
  • 6 Wardrobe
  • 7 Transportation
  • 8 Communication
  • 9 Customs
  • 10 Medicines
  • 11 Time and space
  • 12 Architecture
    • 1 Housing
  • 13 Ceramic
  • 14 Textile
  • 15 Goldsmithing
  • 16 Bibliography
  • 17 See also
  • 18 Sources


The pre-Columbian history of the Muiscas is actually poor due to the loss of much material that allows a detailed reconstruction due to the wars of conquest during the 16th century . Everything he knows about the pre-Columbian Muiscas is thanks to oral tradition, the chronicles of the conquerors and the archaeological excavations carried out especially after Independence.

The Muiscas, called muixcas or moxcas by the Spanish conquerors, inhabited the central regions of present-day Colombia , although the foci of their culture were in the high valleys of the Eastern Cordillera , near Bogotá and Tunja .

The excavations carried out in the area of ​​the Cundiboyacense high plateau leave evidence of great human activity in that territory from the archaic period, that is, more than 10,000 years ago, at the beginning of the Holocene . This ended with a hypothesis held as valid during the nineteenth century, that the Muiscas had been the first inhabitants of the Altiplano. Colombia also has one of the oldest archaeological sites on the continent, El Abra, whose age can even be dated to 11,000 BC. n. and. Other archaeological remains related to El Abra determine an agricultural culture called Abriense. For example, in Tibitó, Abrian artifacts dating from 9740 BC were found. n. and. and in the Sabana deBogotá , in the shelter of Tequendama, other lithic tools dating back a millennium later made by specialized hunters. Among the most appreciated finds are complete human skeletons from 5000 BC. n. and. The analyzes have shown that the Abrienses were another ethnic group different from the Muiscas, thus ending the hypothesis that they occupied an empty territory.

At the time of the arrival of the Spanish, in 1536 , the Muisca civilization had a population of half a million inhabitants. The indigenous people of Cota lived in Bogotá, one of the four confederations that structured the Muisca political-territorial organization. Its inhabitants cultivated corn and [[turme +] s, and practiced deer hunting ; These activities were complemented with the manufacture of textiles. Their traditional social organization was governed by a matrilocal residence pattern; they practiced inbreeding and matrilineality.

In 1538 , after the first armed confrontations, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada managed to divide the Muisca leaders among themselves, and thus subdued them with ease. Spanish penetration throughout the sixteenth century meant the collapse of the political and social structures of the Muiscas. In the 18th century , the language of this town lost its unitary character and was replaced by Spanish. Some local dialects survived, however, in the mountainous areas.

In principle, the conquerors subjected the Muisca chiefdoms to the encomienda system and later, at the end of the 16th century, to that of the resguardos. The Cota reservation was dissolved in 1841 and reconstituted again in 1876 through the purchase of the lands. Today, most of the Muisca population is concentrated in the municipality of Cota, whose reservation named with the same name was dissolved by the Incora in 2001 . Today, there are scattered settlements of populations throughout the territory that claim their ethnic status. Many of the cultural elements of the Muisca tradition are preserved in the peasant communities of Boyacá and Cundinamarca .

Geographic location


Chibcha culture.

The Muiscas developed on the Cundinamarca plateau , in present-day Colombia. It is a territory crossed by the Cauca and Magdalena rivers .

They are located in the municipalities of Cota , Chía , Tenjo , Suba , Negativa , Tocancipá , Ganchacipá and Ubaté , in the central Andean region of the Eastern Cordillera . Its estimated population, only for those who live in the municipality of Cota, is 1859 people. Currently, about 12,000 people located in Bosa, Suba, Chía, Gachancipá, Tocancipá and Sesquilé are claimed as Muisca .


The Muiscas or Chibchas were and still constitute an agro-ceramic and manufacturing society belonging to the Andean region of northern South America . The manner of political organization already described made them a compact and disciplined cultural unit. The contributions of the Muiscas to Colombian national identity today are unquestionable, even more so because the Muisca Confederation was nothing other than the highest political-organizational representation of a culture and a larger linguistic family. The study of the Muisca culture is the subject of permanent research and this contributes in part to understanding the identity of the Colombian.

Unfortunately, the Muisca people experienced a strong process of acculturation, reflected in the loss of formal aspects of the culture. Currently, some residents are struggling to try to recover some of the traditions and conceptions of the world, in a process that seeks to return the community to the splendor of the past.

Socio-political organization

The Muisca continue to be organized around the town hall with a collectively elected governor. Access to land is legitimized through the recognition of consanguinity ties with the founders of the colonial and republican reservations. Many of them are currently engaged in corn farming , cattle ranching and other complementary activities such as construction work and education.


Throughout the 20th century, the Muisca Indians adopted a peasant way of life. This is how the language, the costume and many traditional indigenous activities were lost. With the imposition of Catholicism, the Muisca religion succumbed, although some of its features survive in a syncretic way and associated more with superstitious beliefs.

Locker room

The Muisca textile industry worked with a great diversity of fibers; mainly cotton and fique . According to the Chibcha tradition, the civilizing god Bochita taught his preachers how to spin and weave fibers. Each family had in their home a loom , a spindle, and fibers to weave their own cloth. According to some colonizers, the indigenous people wore different colored garments on different special occasions. The dress consisted of a kind of tunic and a blanket tied at the ends on the shoulder , made of thick cotton fabrics, adorned with colored stripes. The main characters wore finer cloaks of different colors, the fabrics were stamped with inks of vegetable and mineral origin, they used rollers and stamps made of ceramic. They did not wear footwear. They painted their bodies with achiote, and they also used colorful bird feathers on their heads; They also wore bracelets, necklaces, nose rings, and pectorals beautifully made of gold .


Through the network of Andean roads of the indigenous peoples of Colombia , people, goods and merchandise were moved on foot and on the back, using extensive roads, rope bridges and canoes or wooden rafts.


In pre-Columbian times, indigenous peoples communicated through the chasquis , who in relays and traveling long distances on foot carried information between the communities or resorted to signal systems with which they managed to communicate at a distance.


They usually knit their clothes .

They made sculptures of women, in clay and clay .

They used the stilt houses as a home .

Women could be married to several men.

Men and women whose eye color was green were considered bad people.


The disease acquires a magical character and its causes must be fought by the indigenous doctor- priest , with magical methods. The magical character attributed to the shaman or sheikh is explained by the use of hallucinogenic drugs and the correct handling of coca or yopo powder widely used by the Muiscas.

Time and space

The Muiscas measured time using a calendar similar to the one we know. The day was called súa, and a grouping of three days was called sunas. Ten sunas constituted a month, which they called sunata. The year consisted of twelve months of ten sunas each.



Common houses of the Muiscas.

The Muiscas built their houses using cane and mud as their main material to make the walls called bahareque. The common houses were of two forms: some conical and others rectangular. The first consisted of a circular wall made of sticks buried as stronger pillars on which a double between weave of reeds was supported side and side, whose interstice was thick with mud. The roof was conical and covered with straws secured on poles. The profusion of such conical constructions in the Bogotá savannah gave rise to Gonzalo Jiménez de Quezada giving this plateau the name Valles de los Alcázares . The rectangular constructions consisted of parallel walls also made of bahareque, like the previous ones, with a roof in two rectangular-shaped wings.

Both the conical and rectangular constructions had small doors and windows. Inside the furniture was simple and consisted mainly of beds also made of reeds, called barbecues, on which a great profusion of blankets was spread; seats were scarce because the natives used to squat on the ground. In addition to the common houses, there were two other kinds of buildings: one for the main lords, probably the chief of the tribe and clan, and others for the chiefs of the Muisca confederations, such as the Zaque and the Zipas .

living place

It presents a structure that has incorporated the traditional elements of western housing. From that perspective, the house has a square shape, with completely independent rooms and kitchens and walls in material. In architecture, the Muiscas had the least advance. His constructions were summarized in two basic ways; conic, and rectangular. The conics were built with a circle of buried poles and a conical thatched roof. The floor was covered with fine esparto woven of reeds tied with threads of different colors. The rectangular houses were also built with a fence of buried sticks, but in a rectangular shape, and the roof was gabled.



Muisca ceramics.

They had centers dedicated to the work of ceramics – pottery shops such as Tocancipá , Tinjacá , Ráquira , Tunja and Soacha. They made vessels for offerings in the temples, anthropomorphic figures that symbolized their tutelary deities and main characters, and large vessels for commercial exchange. They made their pottery by modeling clay directly, or by means of spiral clay rolls. The decoration used was red and white paint in various shades. These colors were obtained from mineral oxides. Some vessels were adorned with pastillage applications and incisions, a technique with which they made anthropomorphic and geometric designs. The decoration of the pottery was poor, except when the design had a magical-religious symbolization with snakes and human figures.


This industry was of great significance in the cold highlands of Cundinamarca and Boyacá. The Chronicler Fray Pedro Simón, says that the Muiscas used red blankets as a sign of mourning. The Indians of Lenguazaque used them in different colors and the courtiers of Tunja very rich and decorated; Sugamoxis wrapped the corpses of their ancestors in cotton blankets. On these blankets they painted a great variety of geometric motifs, apparently of a symbolic nature, thanks to the explorations carried out by Eliécer Silva CelisIt is known that the covers of the mummies were cotton fabrics, fique mesh and animal skins. The weaving industry was of extraordinary importance to the Indians; all the events of life were celebrated with gifts of blankets. To decorate them they used numerous plants as colorants. They also used dyes of mineral origin or a kind of clay based on colored earths.



Goldsmithing was perfected with varied and complex metallurgical techniques such as tumbaga work and lost wax casting. The beautiful anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations of the tunjos or propitiatory offerings to the deities are distinguished. The diversity of gold ornaments for the chiefs and main lords and the ornaments for the residences were a sample of great beauty.

They also used copper to make anthropomorphic figures and ceremonial canes, and made nose rings, earrings, pectorals and other objects in copper.


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