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Historical Summary

Experts are divided as to the exact time period that the area of Bilbao flourished. Some put it at middle classic (400 to 550 AD) while others consider it to be late classic (550 to 700 AD). There is no doubt though that the area was inhabited as early as the pre-classic period because one monument from 37 AD is the oldest known in Guatemala and includes one of the earliest Hieroglyphic texts ever seen.

It is generally considered that from approximately 500 AD the area was inhabited by the Nahuatl speaking Pipil, who migrated from Central Mexico and could have owed their allegiance to the city of Teotihuacan. One of the reasons why the ancestral links are unclear is because the area developed a unique artistic style evident in the ceramics and, more significantly, in the sculptures. 3D sculptures are common, as are realistic representations of human figures which could have been portraits. There is a preoccupation with death, sacrifice, interactions with supernatural beings and the ballgame.

Influences of this style spread over a wide area indicating that Santa Lucia was a place of power. It is also assumed that because of many architectural pieces found, including carved stairs and pillars and the open platform design of Bilbao, that the site may have served as a palace, housing for the privileged, an administrative centre or a place of worship.

Many of the stelae display plants, fruits and vines as a symbol of fertility and cacao as a symbol of wealth. Cacao and quetzal feathers were considered ‘money’ for a long time. Scenes depicting decapitated bodies are common and there are sculptures of skeletons and torn off limbs. On a less macabre level, sculptures of potbellies were also popular, as well as those of giant heads who possibly represented different gods.

At some point the Quichés and Cakchiqueles came from the northwest to defeat the Pipiles and take over their land. They were in turn defeated by the Spaniards who abandoned the monuments to nature. It was not until 1860, when land was being cleared to create a coffee plantation, that Pedro de Anda found some partially buried stones with carvings and so began the uncovering of this fascinating settlement.

By Kathryn
Independent and optimistic, I believe in following your dreams and have been doing just that, traveling the world for the last 9 years. British by...
09 Feb 2010

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