Nemocon Natural History Museum

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Bogota Bed & Breakfast INN wants to share this piece of information with you. In one of our trips to the Nemocon Salt Mine the guide let us record her guided tour in English. This is a mix between what she said, what Beatriz could search, and what is written on the signs of the Nemocon Natural History Museum.

There we go: In the vast region of Nemocon and Zipaquira some fossils of Ammonites were found. They are from the Cretaceous Era. They had a shell and tentacles that helped them to swim very fast in the water. They were predators and with their tentacles they catch their food.

The ideal conditions for the fossilization process are fast coverage by soft sediment and lack of oxygen. These conditions are found under the water. That is the reason why there is more ocean creatures fossilized than any other type of animals.

Thirteen millions years ago there was a big forest with a great biodiversity in the Savanna. We found the Matamatatortule who lived all the time in the water. Its shell was 45 cm long. Its colors were green and brown. Its head was like a snail. It was carnivorous.

On these lands we also found a fossil of a root. This forest was covered by sedimentary rock. The wood would absorb all the minerals that the land had and turned it into rock. A piece of this wood could be as heavy as a rock. Outside it looks like wood but inside it is a rock. The eucalyptus in the structure of this salt mine undergoes the same process and becomes as hard as a rock. This type of fossilized wood is called Petrified wood.

The lazy bears were considered the biggest mammals in the whole world. They were 4 to 6 meters tall. In the Nemocon Museum of Natural History you will find a humerus of these lazy bears. They only ate vegetation.

The Mastodons were spread in the whole world. In this Nemocon Museum we have a replica of a mastodon. The real mastodon fossil is in Ingeominas (now Servicio Geologico de Colombia, SGC, Colombian Geologic Service) in Bogota. It was a baby mastodon and it is in a scale one to fifth; it is a section of its head. It was 14 years old. You can also see a fang and what was part of its head. The fossil was found in Checua, Cundinamarca. Checua is a town 40 minutes away from Nemocon. It was found in 1996. Mastodons in the world were extinguished five thousand years ago.

Here you find three probable causes for their disappearance:

  1. Climate changes.

  2. Hunting

  3. Tuberculosis

In the museum you will also find a picture of a burial found in Checua. It is seven thousand years old. The indigenous tribes believed that when they die they were going into a long trip. If a tribal man died they used to give sedative herbs to his woman to put her to sleep and then she was buried with her man alive. When the woman would die she was buried alone and the man could get remarried again with cousins or sisters of her family.

The oldest instrument found in the area is six thousand years old. It is a flute made out of human bone. They would heat it in the fire, the holes would open and they could play it, otherwise it would not work. The ancestors of the Muiscas (the tribal group found in the savanna) used bones to make hunting tools and needles to make their cloth, rocks to smash seeds or plants in order to extract all the properties of the plants. The Pre-Muiscas were the first people to produce salt. They used gachas (it is a big pot made out clay) to put the salty water. They would heat the gachas on a fire, the water would evaporate and the salt would remain on this gachas as a paste. To get the salt they would break the gacha and get the salt block. These people did not have a solid economy. All this happened in the Herrera Period. The Muiscas continued using this method of compacting salt. It started on 250 BC and went on until 1970. It was a really long time compacting the salt.

The first salt producers: agricultural societies prior to the Muiscas were the first to produce salt on the Savanna and to develop pottery. As far back as 250 B.C, pottery vessels were made in Zipaquira and Nemocon for heating salted water to high temperatures. This made it possible to evaporate the water and obtain lumps of compacted salt, a technique that would continue to be used in the region until approximately 1970”

When Salt would buy gold: Indigenous groups known as Muiscas inhabited this region between 800 and 1600 A.D. They went on producing salt using the same technique developed by the Herrera groups. Salt played a fundamental role in their territory, where vast barter networks enabled the them to access goods from distant lands, such as gold, exotic feathers, coca, and sea shells, which were exchanged for salt, blankets, emeralds and other goods”.

“A little more than 2.000 years ago, small communities of farmers and potters settled near the salty springs in Nemocon and began to produce salt. Ever since then, this valuable mineral has circulated all over the savanna and well beyond its frontiers, thereby linking this large territory together. Today’s inhabitants of Nemocon have inherited a resource that has forged their history”

After the Muiscas the extraction of salt changed. At the Museum of Natural History in Nemocon we found a power generator from 1915 made by GE. The miners would put salty water on three batteries. At the same time the compartments had oil that helped continuously to produce sparks. With this power generator they would give light to one part of the mine, one cave. At the Museum there is also a grid the miners would used to keep their tools.

They used a battery charger from the time to charge their batteries. You can also see a cave for the tools. There they would put all the tools, flash lights, and helmets.

And here it ends the tour to the Nemocon Museum of Natutal History. You will continue with the tour in and about the mine.

For your information, there is an emerald store outside the Museum. They have certified emeralds, just in case you feel like getting earrings or rings.