Escudo de la República de Colombia

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Anthropologists reconstruct the scenario of the Pantano de Vargas battle

Aerial photo analyses and archeological surveying, as well as excavations and analysis of battle remnants will enable having a better version of the events of 197 years ago.

Bogotá D. C., 12 de julio de 2016Agencia de Noticias UN-

In identifying the battle grounds they found ammunition, a trigger guard and a sword sheath.

The battle, considered one of the most important clashes for Colombian independence occurred on July 25 of 1819.

The battle allowed the Patriots open its way towards Santa Fe and provided a hard blow to the Realists.

The battle was very violent due to the amount of deaths of both contenders.

The intense rain of the time coincided with the La Niña phenomenon.

Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Department of Anthropology researchers claim that with the data they will design a new map of the time, which will be displayed at the Casa Museo Vargas in 2019. After 200 years of this memorable act which impacted the independence of Colombia, now with a new perspective, the graves of the fallen, a new voice will be heard. 

During the first phase the experts read historical documents in order to identify the intervening actors, the areas where history was made and the events which marked the historical milestones. Also by interpreting aerial photographs and 1919 military topography maps, they limited the area of the marsh, the battle field and the access routes. They also roamed the area of the location of the battle. 

By performing photointerpretation they identified the areas where the massive combats took place. They also noted an area where the soil seemed to be darker, close to an old drainage canal towards the southeast of the Barital plateau, which neighbors Cangrejo hill. 

Researcher and Director of the UNal Laboratory of Physical Anthropology José Vicente Rodríguez and Anthropology master’s candidate Luis Daniel Borrero claim they discovered a mass grave with remains of the fallen, which would explain the greener pastures of the area. This was seen through a series of aerial imagery and they claim the area is 9.7 by 45 meters in area. 

According to interviews with the community this area has grey clay of the former marsh, but due to recent rainfall, the phreatic level is at only 40 cms deep making archeological surveying difficult. 

Arms expert Borrero says the lead bullets are round and a few were deformed. Rounds are 2 different calibers, .69, which came from French and North American muskets and .73 from British muskets. They also found a bronze trigger guard from a British fire arm and a Spanish cavalry sword sheath from 1796. 

“We still need to intensively explore the Barital area, as the scenario of strong clashing between cavalries which produced the greatest deaths during the battle. Additionally this is possibly the location of a mass grave of the fallen,” said Rodríguez. 

Amid the rainy season 

The valley of the pantano de Vargas, is 4 kms long and 1 kms wide crossed by the Varguitas water stream, which during the rainy season and along with the Chicamocha River flooded the whole area. It could only be crossed by canoe by the east, through the so-called Camino Real (Royal Trail), today known as the Paipa-Duitama highway. 

Guerra Mountain (former Picacho hill) dominated the area to the east. The south has two hills known as Cangrejo and Sepulcros; and towards the north is what is currently known as Bolívar hill. 

According to Rodríguez, the explorations carried out between Bolívar and Sepulcros hills showed that the area was unstable as when the measurements were performed the phreatic level was very high. Therefore they determined that the scenario for the battle occurred through a stretch of the colonial trail. 

“Access to the combat area followed these routes which were on the highest areas to avoid the marsh high waters due to the intense rain of the time which coincided with the La Niña phenomenon. The water volume of the Chicamocha River at the time was so large that the river reached almost 60 meters wide,” added Rodríguez. 

This information provides clues on the current asphalted highway which goes from Vargas to the municipality of Paipa, which did not exist at the time as the area was flooded in 1819. Furthermore the settings of the time were very precarious due to the weather conditions. The battle happened during the rainy season which made crossing over torrential rivers very difficult.

(Por: Fin/VC/DMH/APBL
)
N.° 90

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