The Lost Kingdoms of Central America continues in Between Empires and Oceans. Dr. Jago Cooper starts off his journey in Costa Rica. Archeologists ignored the country for decades, unaware of a hidden civilization so close. When Columbus found this civilization the people were covered head to toe in gold. It was called “Costa Rica” because the area was so rich.
It was a civilization that had built many cities. They thrived among volcanoes. They lived between two continents and two oceans. Cooper explores the challenging landscape to discover this civilization. During the 20th Century, this civilization was rediscovered. This discovery helped archeologists locate settlements of this mysterious civilization. They found similar settlements in southern Costa Rica and Northern Panama.
Dr. Cooper heads up in the air to understand the landscape. He wants to know the environment to help determine how this civilization survived. For decades, archeologists believed that no civilization could survive. They focused their efforts on the Maya and the Andean civilizations. They missed something special hidden in the Costa Rica jungle. Dr. Cooper goes to a site where the Ancient Costa Rican people lived.
The settlement contains stone circles. The stone circles were different sizes. They worked with the landscape to build their settlement. The settlement lasted for 700 years and they harvest maize and other crops. This site was eventually rebuilt and it became a religious site. It became the home of priests and other religious figures. It was a place of pilgrimage.
Why did they rebuild the site? Perhaps the answer lies in a cemetery found on the site. It was one of the biggest cemeteries in the region. The Ancient Costa Ricans treated their dead by marking their ancestors’ graves. Their dead was buried and buried next to or nearby to family. The Ancient Costa Ricas marked groups of graves. The bodies are long gone and devoured by the soil. The artifacts are gone. They were looted long ago, they were looking for gold. Pounds and pounds of gold came from that site.
Gold was a symbol of wealth and power. Gold was an emblem of authority. The ancient Costa Ricans buried gold with their dead. There are still questions about the Ancient Costa Ricans. Why did a settlement turn into a religious site? What prompted the change? Why was the site reconstructed?
Cooper makes his way to a museum. He discovers that jade was a valuable resource for the Ancient Costa Ricans. Jade use flourished in the Mayans. Perhaps before gold, Jade was used. The ancient Costa Ricans carved items out of jade. This also meant that jade traded to Costa Rica. This is another piece in the Ancient Costa Rican puzzle. Eventually, jade’s use went away and gold was used. Perhaps the ancient Costa Rican’s religion started to change. The small objects created with gold or jade were religious images.
Gold also had a political role. Gold was controlled by the political elite. Understanding why jade changed to gold is key to understanding the Ancient Costa Rican’s view of the world. Jade demonstrated the influence of the north. So perhaps gold demonstrated the influence of the south. It also shows how connected the Ancient Costa Ricans were to the outside world.
To continue to learn more about the ancient people of Costa Rica, continue to watch the documentary.
This is a fascinating documentary for a history class. You can use this documentary for an anthropology class. It is interesting to see an area that archeologists have not spent much time in. This is another great episode to show to a class to give students a break from the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incans.
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