Ancient Ridged Fields of the San Jorge River Floodplain

World Monuments Watch
Córdoba and Sucre Departments, Colombia

2014 World Monuments Watch

The Ancient Ridged Fields of the San Jorge River Floodplain, located in the La Mojana region of northern Colombia, is a unique vestige of a pre-Columbian water management and irrigation system that has been abandoned for centuries. Beginning in the sixth century, the Zenú people who inhabited the inland delta of the Magdalena, Cauca, and San Jorge rivers created channels perpendicular to the rivers to help manage the overflow of water. When flooded, the channels would direct the overflow to a bog, retaining the nutrient-rich sediment that was later used to sustain the crops during drought season. During construction, the soil that was removed to create the ridges was used to form mounds where the inhabitants built their dwellings. The irrigation system was maintained by the Zenú and then the Malibu peoples through the tenth century. Aerial photographs of the floodplain still show the remains of this long-forgotten water management system.

Modern developments in the area resulted in the construction of retaining walls and dams, which in turn exacerbated the floods in various parts of the site. Left without maintenance for centuries, the 3,500-square-mile (5,600-square-kilometer) ridged landscape is in danger of disappearing due to increased flooding and the accumulation of soil in the channels. Inclusion of the Ancient Ridged Fields of the San Jorge River Floodplain on the 2014 World Monuments Watch helped to raise awareness of this unique cultural landscape and the social, technical, and economic potential that it has if protected and developed in a sustainable manner. The site presents an opportunity to resurrect lost systems of building and water management that would benefit the local community and ensure the long-term sustainability of the landscape.

Watch Day

In September 2014 Watch Day was celebrated in the form of a public discussion at two distinguished universities in Bogotá. Presentations were made by representatives of various institutions invested in the preservation of Columbian cultural heritage.

Last updated: July 2017.

Join us in safeguarding significant places.