What are the mysterious petroglyphs of Ometepe all about?

1 Answer

The basic necessity of communication between individuals and the urge to leave the mark of your existence for your future generations is still recurrent and meaningful. And how the future generations interpret that legacy left behind by their ancestors is completely up to them. But some tend to remain as mysterious as ever.

Petroglyphs of Ometepe:

Petroglyph is a form of Rock art done by incising, picking, carving or abrading the surface of the rock. Ometepe is an hourglass shaped island sandwiched between two volcanoes, Maderas which is extinct and Concepcion which is an active volcano. It is located in lake Nicargua in the Republic of Nicargua.

Answer ImageIt derives its name from the indigenous Nahuatl languages, "ome" meaning two and "tepetl" meaning two mountains. This island is famous among tourists, archaeologists and art enthusiasts alike for the number of petroglyphs spread across the island. The island itself is immersed in many mystical folklore that attracted the early settlers in the first place.

The Mystery:

The Ometepe Petroglyph Project was a volunteer field survey from 1995-1999 of the Maderas half of the Island. Out of the 73 sites surveyed, petroglyphs were found in all but one. Approximately 2000 boulders with petroglyphs or other art forms on them have been discovered. The native artists used Flint and obsidian chisels to carve out the stones which were off of high quality too.

Although there is still an ongoing debate to determine the exact date of it's origin but it still has not yielded any results. Calendars were found on certain stones stating that the early natives knew 18 months, each with 20 days which made a year of 360 days. The oldest petroglyphs found were dated back to around 1000 BC. Comparing the petroglyph motifs and pottery designs found, the age was estimated to over 3000 years old.


In the excavation of late 1960's Wolfgang Haberland showed that Ometepe was probably inhabited as late as 800 BC or as early as 2000 BC. The petroglyphs show that the natives like the Chorotegas and Niquiranos had a systematic and advanced culture. The petroglyphs were often deciphered as religious symbols, shapes indicating different relationships between humans and animals.

Answer ImageGeometric patterns and celestial bodies, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic-gods; patterns like circles and spirals indicating eternity and human passage to another dimension. Depictions on some Petroglyphs include some unusual formations like seats or steps carved into boulders, ovals and big grooves. Less common forms include human figures with "bowling ball faces".

Types of carvings:

The most common motif is spiral and anthropomorphic figures such as simple heads, stick figures and fully outlined bodies. Some sculptures are even three dimensional, the most popular being the witch or Bruja, which has a human head and a fish like body. Zoomorphic figures are not common but include images of mammals, crocodiles, frogs, monkeys, turtles, and birds.

Miscellaneous figures include flowers, sun-like symbols, calendars and cruciform figures. on the places they were found, age, type of patterns and workmanship some are thought to be astronomical markers, maps and other types of symbolic communication. But still any accurate interpretation of the petroglyphs is yet to be determined.


The aura of mysteriousness never fails to exude a certain charm that inadvertently attracts attention and the Petroglyphs of Ometepe sure fits the bill. Maybe it was made for purely artistic comprehension, religious or cultural ceremonies, we may know it one day. But for now, it continues to peek our curiosity.

Related Questions
Top Writers