Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
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Life & Death In the Nicoya Gulf

November 9, 2010 - April 17, 2011

The ritual of death, customs, associated objects, and treatment of the dead in the pre-Columbian population who lived near the gulf in Guanacaste, are revealed to the visitor, inviting to learn about funeral practices of the old "Nicoyans" from the years 800 to 1350 AD.

The objects in exhibition are shown for the first time after being extracted from the El Silo archaeological site. El Silo is the name given to the site, discovered in 2004 and studied by National Museum archaeologists within the frame of funeral research. Still a future excavation project, the site also has a dwelling area not yet investigated. 

The show includes 85 objects in diverse materials—mainly ceramic—but also some in stone, obsidian, jadeite, and gold. Amongst them are incense burners, platters, containers, hatchets, and metals.

As a museography aid, the Museum made a scale reproduction of part of the excavated cemetery and ossuary, with replicas of bone remains and found objects. The montage exemplifies the original circular forms of ten graves and their central ossuary, being this the first time this type of circular design is ever found. Evidence shows that in some graves several persons were buried together. On the other hand, the treatment given to the dead was diverse, possibly related to hierarchy, trade, gender, and other. 

Feminine representation is a particular characteristic of the objects in ceramic, both in complete figures, and oval strokes and forms evoking femininity. Animals, however, were also moulded. Coatis, raccoons, porcupines, rodents, felines, and sea animals emerge in clay like witnesses of the fauna that lived in the area more than 600 years ago.

The exhibit is held at the Northern Temporary Exhibition Salon, and will be open until April 17, 2011.

Rescuing The Silo

The Silo site was discovered during backhoe soil movement at farm El Pochote. Its proprietors wanted to build a silo to store grain, which is the reason to name the site, "El Silo."

The National Museum of Costa Rica started legal proceedings to prevent ransacking and patrimonial destruction. Two research seasons under archaeologist Wilson Valerio allowed knowledge of the funeral area, and future research will allow investigation of the domestic quarter.

A great part of the past in this area would have been lost forever were it not for this site's rescue. Each recovered element at El Silo allows us to have a clearer panorama of the region's cultures. Their world vision and the recovered remains enrich the knowledge we have about our ancestors, comprising an important part of the cultural and patrimonial legacy of all Costa Ricans.

Translation courtesy of Silvia Piza-Tandlich

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