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The Mystery of the Quimbaya Artifacts

The peoples of Earth’s past have on many occasions given us quite a bit of a headache. They leave their belongings behind, and we study them, but just as we think we understand them they will throw us a curveball in some inexplicable object or tech that just doesn’t fit in and has been lost to the mists of time, leaving us struggling to find answers. Examples of this are numerous, and it sometimes seems that the more we research past civilizations the less we understand. Among the many inexplicable objects left behind by cultures long gone, are a series of strange gold figurines that have managed to become much discussed and controversial.

From approximately the years 300 to 1550 AD, the region that is now the South American country of Colombia was the home of a pre-Columbian civilization known as the Quimbaya culture. There is much that is not known about this mysterious people, but they are well known for their intense mining of gold and advanced metallurgy techniques, especially pertaining to the crafting of gold work of art renowned for their precise, detailed designs and technical brilliance, all fashioned from an alloy that is a mix of gold and copper, called tumbaga. The Quimbaya fashioned gold into all manner of items and figurines, including those of humans, animals, plants, and insects, which they used in funeral offerings in their elaborate tombs, and also to supplement their trade with outsiders, and which have also become what they are most known for in modern times. Yet among some of these figurines there have been found some that have sparked sparked some amount of debate, and which remain mysterious and evasive specters of the past.

Besides the mystery of how these people even managed to craft such high quality and pure grade of gold and copper seen in their work, since it would have required kilns far more advanced than any known at the time, there are also some anomalous gold figurines that stand out among the rest. The figures in question, which only measure a mere 2 to 3 inches in length, were originally found on the banks of the Otún River, with others found on the banks of the Cauca or the Magdalena, and they mostly seem to depict various birds and insects, albeit stylized and with certain artistic liberties taken. Yet there are a few among the total of one hundred and twenty three remaining figures that have caught the attention of people within the world of anomalous history, that are odd in that they seem to be depictions not of a bird or bug, but rather fantastical, highly advanced flying machines of some sort.

The figures in question look different from the others, in that they very clearly seem to resemble what someone in modern times would recognize as something akin to an airplane, with clear set wings situated under a fuselage, and even stabilizer tails. This is all very odd considering that these figures date back to around 1,000 AD, long before airplanes were even a twinkle in our eyes, yet there they are and it has sparked speculation on whether they could be indicative of some sort of ancient advanced knowledge of aeronautics, aerodynamics, and the mechanics of flight, and there has even been the idea that the Quimbaya may have actually gone about building these ancient aircraft, according to some more far-out theories even with the help of extraterrestrials. The figurines are so impressive that in in 1994, German researchers Peter Belting and Conrad Lubbers arranged tests in which the designs were scaled up and made into radio-controlled scale models of the objects, which were claimed to be actually flight worthy, so what are we to make of 1,000 year old airplanes?

While these mysterious figures certainly do resemble modern airplanes, there has been much skepticism aimed at what have come to be called the “Quimbaya Arifacts.” First is that, other than the figures themselves there is absolutely no evidence that such craft were ever manufactured by the Quimbaya people. We have their ruins, their artifacts and tombs, but not a single sign of the remains of any of these theoretical aircraft or the fuel that it is assumed they would have needed. It has also been argued that these people would not have had access to the resources and materials in the amounts needed to make these aircraft in the first place. Considering all of this, most archeologists have come to the conclusion that the figures are merely being misidentified, and are actually just anomalous looking, stylized depictions of common birds, fish, lizards, amphibians, and insects of the region. One skeptic on the site Pseudoarcheology says of the figures and the theories swirling around them:

The main argument from pseudoarcheology believers is that the zoomorphic pendants from the Quimbaya artifact collection are clear representations of flying machines. They argue that these pendants do not represent insects, fish, or birds; which main stream archaeologists believe them to be. Their main theory to support these claims is that the Quimbaya zoomorphic pendants are aerodynamic, proving that the Quimbaya culture understood the principles of flight. Aerodynamics is basically the study of how objects move through the air. It is likely that aerodynamics was understood by the Quimbaya people; however, that does not mean that they created airplanes or flying vehicles. There is no evidence in the archaeological record of any machines that show the Quimbaya people were capable of or had built flying aircrafts. Also many of these zoomorphic pendants were aerodynamic because they were depictions of aerodynamic animals, some of which could fly. Birds, fish, and many insects are aerodynamic allowing them to fly through the air or swim efficiently through water. These pendants are merely representations of aerodynamic creatures.

This has not at all stopped those who think that the Quimbaya artifacts are proof of ancient knowledge of flight, and there have even been theories that these were actual UFOs or connected somehow to the Nazca lines in Peru. Without any real evidence this is all pure speculation, and in the end we don’t really know what the Quimbaya people were thinking when they crafted these figures or why they did it. Was it just artistic representations of animal life or something more? With no written records and no further evidence, this is mystery is a ghost from another time, beckoning for us to decipher it but immaterial and ultimately confined to its own era. Whatever the Quimbaya artifacts are and whatever they represent, they certainly have managed to carve a space out for themselves in the world of the weird.

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About Minh Hiếu

Le Minh Hieu is a national-level weightlifter and a Singapore Weightlifting sports performance coach. Hieu's biggest passion is helping everyone find confidence, happiness, and health through fitness.

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