Uncovering the Stone Circles of Nicaragua

National Geographic explorer and archaeologist Alex Geurds is currently in the field investigating a unique, prehistoric, ceremonial center of stone circles in Central Nicaragua. Follow the expedition here on Explorers Journal through updates from him and his team.

The Aguas Buenas archaeological site is parceled up in over a dozen fields, fenced by uninviting barbwire and inhabited by anything ranging from six foot high grasses and thorny shrubs to mango trees with mildly interested cows underneath. At the moment, this contemporary rural puzzle hides from view what may well be one of the most fascinating Prehispanic sites in Nicaragua. Running through these fields, undeterred by fencing and the rolling landscape, are multiple arcs formed by a great number of stone and earthen mounds, popularly known as ‘monticulos’ locally. Precisely one year ago, we began the effort to create a map of the site, including the mounds, thereby revealing this unique mound configuration. We managed to cover what we think is roughly half the site, and this year we’ve picked up where we left off.

Excavation team members stand at key points to mark the shape and extent of the mounds at Aguas Buenas. (Photo courtesy Alex Geurds)
Excavation team members stand at key points to mark the shape and extent of the mounds at Aguas Buenas. (Photo courtesy Alex Geurds)


This mapping, conducted with a Differential GPS is an arduous and time-consuming task, involving transect-walking the entire site with one of two signal receivers and a recording fieldbook mounted to a rod. It’s mostly the work of Denise, one of our more dedicated graduate students from Leiden University, who apparently gets a kick out of balancing expensive equipment for hours in 100+ degree temperatures. While the rest of the crew were happily occupied with the gradual excavation of mound M301, Denise was out tracking mound outlines, safeguarding adequate coverage of the terrain, and making sure the GPS was not pulling tricks on her.

The clip included here shows her mapping the circumference of a mound and the excavation underway in the background.

We map every day till the cows come home… literally. We’re still not done, but once we have the entire site layout available, it will tell us just how remarkable this site is, and we can begin to question how the Prehispanic indigenous communities in this area managed to construct such a spatially intricate architectural plan. The excavations will hopefully reveal how individual mounds relate to each other and, ultimately, what the purpose was for this place we now call Aguas Buenas.


NEXT: Read All Aguas Buenas 2013 Blog Posts


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