The Zenu or Sinu are a Colombian Amerindian tribe whose ancestral territory is composed of the valleys of the Sinu and San Jorge rivers and the coast of the Caribbean around the Gulf of Morrosquillo. These lands lie within the departments of Cordoba and Sucre.
The Zenu culture existed from approximately 200 BC to approximately 1600 AD. Typical for this the culture is the construction of major water works and the production of gold ornaments. The gold that was often buried with the dead, lured the Spanish conquerors and much of the gold was looted. With the arrival of the Spaniards the nation died out for the greater part. The 16th century Spanish chroniclers reported about the Zenu that were still there, but little or nothing about the history of the Zenu.
Around 200 BC communities of farmers and goldsmiths lived in the valleys of the Sinu, San Jorge, Cauca and lower Nechi rivers, which culturally belonged together with similar artistic expressions, understanding of life and death and the way they managed their environment. Their means of subsistence were hunting, farming, fishing and trading in raw materials and finished products. Around 950 AD, about 160 inhabitants per square kilometer lived in the San Jorge basin.Currently, that area is inhabited by no more than one person per square km 2. After 1100 AD the Zenu population declined for unknown reasons and till the Spanish conquest the descendants moved to higher pastures that did not flood and required no drainage works.
Ancient ridged fields of the San Jorge River floodplain, Colombia.
Example of the remains of the drainage and irrigation works by the Zenu Indians near Cano Rabon
Museo del Oro Zenu, Cartagena de Indias
Museo del Oro: Zenu, people and gold on the Caribbean plains
Plazas, C. e.a. (1986) La cultura del oro y el agua. Un proyecto de reconstruccion Boletin Cultural y Bibliografico Numero 6, Volumen XXIII
Saenz, J. (1993) Mujeres de barro: estudio de las figurinas ceramicas de Monteliebano Boletin Museo del Oro. N 34-35
Plazas, C. e.a. (1981) El Legendario Zenu Boletin del Museo del Oro. Ano 4, septiembre - diciembre
Herera M. (1993) Los Senores de Zenu Revista Credencial Historia. (Bogota - Colombia). Edicion 44 Agosto
Museo del Oro: Zenu masterpieces
National Museum of the American Indian: Zenu ornament collection
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