Los Omaguas

The tropical forests of the Ecuadorian Amazon hide the traces of the different civilizations that have inhabited it over the centuries, with the passing of time there has been evidence of its existence, either by the Mother Nature or for the expeditions made by those who study them and write their history.

There is a culture that inhabited the banks of the Napo and Coca River that history has not yet recognized, Los Omaguas.

Its archaeological background indicates that among the Years 1,100 and 1,400 AD populated the central region of the Amazon, also known “The Pirates of the Napo River”, the Omaguas were one of the largest and fiercest civilizations in the region, it is known that its territory covered more than 900 square kilometers.

The language of ceramics and funerary rites

Characterized by being navigators and warriors, this town was refined as it had a broad cultural and spiritual background; evidence that was embodied in its pottery whose forms and representations made reference to the spirit world present in all living and inert forms of its surroundings.

Curious data 1: The shaman was the leader of the community and was preparing for years to be the holder of the secrets of Yajé and Ayahuasca that allowed him to contact the spirit world and gave him the power to cure diseases, face enemies or summon the hunt.

The funeral ritual was also an essential part of the culture, the Omaguas buried their dead in shallow graves that were covered by some woods, waited for the body to decompose to dig up the bones, decorate them and place them in the funeral urns that were preserved in the houses for some time and then be buried again.

The shapes of these urns were strongly linked to fertility, showing signs of rebirth after death. Seed urns: ceramics whose shape reminds us of that of reptile eggs, female figures or the belly of a pregnant woman.

This civilization found beauty by having an oval face for which they had the habit of flattening their skulls with wood and vegetable fibers to have a “Moon Face”; as described by Pablo Maroni, missionary of the eighteenth century.

Curious fact: The puma or eagle embodied in ceremonial plates and urns represent sacred animals as it was believed that the shaman at death became one of them.

Extinction

It is known that in the seventeenth century the Omaguas began to avoid contact with the civilizations of the west as it brought epidemics and abuse by merchants and landowners; finding refuge within the territories of the Jesuits in present-day Peru, this order moves them downstream to the middlelower basin of the Napo River and others settled inside the jungle in places of difficult access where their culture slowly It was disappearing.

Fun fact: The puma or eagle embodied in ceremonial plates and urns represent sacred animals since it was believed that the shaman at death became one of them.

Bibliography

  • Un viaje con los Omaguas, Museo Arqueológico Centro Cultural Orellana (MACCO).
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