Site History and Significance
The “Lost City” of the Tayrona People
In the mountain jungles of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountains, local Indigenous communities are working to preserve the archaeological remains of a spectacular city built over a millennium ago by the Tayrona civilization. Constructed using rammed earth and intricate masonry, the city was abandoned for unknown reasons in the sixteenth century, when the Tayrona civilization mysteriously disappeared. In 1975, the overgrown remains of the site were stumbled upon by looters, bringing it to the attention of scholars, but much remains to be learned about its composition and development.
A Global Heritage Fund (GHF) Legacy Project
Under the direction of the heritage non-profit GHF, archaeologists completed LiDAR mapping of Cuidad Perdida in 2019, locating more than 200 vernacular structures across 30 hectares (80 acres), including dwellings, terraces, stone paths, plazas, ceremonial sites, storehouses, and canals. GHF also partnered with the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH) to develop and implement a site management plan to address the erosion, decay, and destabilizing vegetation growth around this rediscovered gem to aid in its documentation and conservation.
GHF also engaged the area’s Indigenous community in preservation work and prioritized the development of sustainable tourism initiatives. To further strengthen the social fabric through increased economic activity, GHF launched an educational program in El Mamey, the town at the Ciudad Perdida trailhead, with a focus on professional training for prospective guides and others in the tourism sector.
In 2023, following the strategic affiliation between GHF and World Monuments Fund (WMF), WMF took on Ciudad Perdida as part of its project portfolio and will continue work at the site.