A Treasure Hunt: When Life Gives Lemons


“But that is not treasure for us which another man has lost; rather it is for us to seek what no other man has found or can find.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

We were without electricity and water for two days. When life gives lemons, what else can one do, but….go on a treasure hunt. The lake is receding. It’s the dry season and many Pre-Columbian pottery shards wash ashore daily. If the shards wash ashore from the lake, what treasures are to be found embedded in the soft clay and volcanic sand beneath the water? We were determined to find out. Plus, it was a grand way to take a bath. After two days without showers, we were both feeling a little raunchy.

Scooting on our butts in the shallow, murky water was an exercise in patience and touch. This must be what it is like to be blind. We began to differentiate between the volcanic rocks and smooth pottery shards nestled in the clay. Soon Ron shouts, “It’s a turtle! It’s something big and whole. I think I’ve hit the jackpot.”

A few minutes later, after carefully digging around the clay with nimble fingers, he dislodges a whole pot. It was an incredible sightless find. What made it even more remarkable is that there were only a few chips missing from the rim. How did it survive the onslaught of waves and other misfortunes in the shallow water? Many years ago, my young friend and I were walking along the shore and she spotted what she thought was a turtle. To our surprise, it was a Pre-Columbian pottery burial urn, perfectly intact, upside down on the shore. Amazing!!!

I have many unanswered questions. Why are the pottery pieces in the lake? Was the lake much lower at one time and this was where the ancient ones made their pottery? Or, when the Spanish conquistadors came to Ometepe Island, did the ancient ones bury their treasures from the invaders? I have lots of research to do.

Meanwhile, I continue to collect the variety of tools, shards, and other incredible pieces that wash ashore. I’m thinking of donating the whole pieces to our local museum. I recognize the need for protection, preservation, and education of these precious artifacts. They do not belong to me. After all, the fun is in the treasure hunting and seeking what no man has found or can find.

The Archeological Richness of Ometepe Island


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On my daily walks along the volcanic beaches of Lake Cocibolca, I often find shards of history washed ashore, remnants of the ancient ones who settled Ometepe Island during the first migration, about 10,000 BC.  Hunks of broken stone mortars and pestles and primitively carved tools embed themselves in the black sand telling the tales of the rich lives of the Chibchas and Tiaguanacos indigenous tribes.

When the Chorotegas tribe arrived in the sixth and seventh centuries, they improved the stone-working techniques, added creative embellishments to the ceramics, and carved mysterious symbols on the volcanic boulders      (now known as Petroglyphs) plopped into the fields from eruptions of Vulcan Concepcion.

Intricately painted shards, in the shapes of birds, faces, monkeys, and other animals wash between my toes harboring the secrets of the Nahuas, the indigenous tribe that arrived in the ninth and tenth centuries.According to legend, the Nahuas were led to our sacred island after a series of collective dreams that guided them to ‘two hills’ majestically jutting from a small island in a sweet sea.

Significant evidence indicates that Ometepe Island became a trading port. In the middle of the tenth century, the Mayas arrived with gold figurines, jade, and other exotic trade items. Once the Mayas discovered La Isla de Ometepe, they decided to settle down and expand the art of ceramica production.

The cultural history of Pre-Columbian pottery on Ometepe Island is sparsely documented. Nicaragua lacks a major structural network that would support significant funding from outside sources to study and record the archeological finds. Instead, small museums record the archeological history of the island, with little to no funding sources.

The El Ceibo Museum is a fine example of a small museum on the island, founded by Moises Ghitis. Over 1,200 examples of Ometepe’s Pre-Columbian heritage are highlighted. Most of these pieces were discovered on Moises’ finca several years ago. El Ceibo Museum

With the increased emphasis on tourism in Nicaragua, and particularly Ometepe Island, major efforts are taking place to protect the cultural heritage of the island. New laws enacted make it a crime to remove and sell Pre-Columbian artifacts. Educational programs in the schools emphasize the importance of protecting and preserving the historical pieces.

I am so very grateful to see the archeological richness of Ometepe Island taken seriously. With more funding for museums, educational programs, and increased awareness through various media sources, Ometepe Island can preserve their unique cultural heritage.

How can you help preserve and support the archeological richness of Ometepe Island?

1. Take only photos and leave only footprints behind.
2. Report any archeological finds to El Ceibo Museum or the other small local museums on the island.
3. Respect the cultural heritage of Nicaragua. The country is in the beginning stages of protection and environmental awareness. Many of the local people do not understand the importance of preserving and protecting their heritage. Help spread the word.
4. Provide funding and support for the educational programs and museums. If you enjoy visiting archeological sites on the island, show your support by making a monetary donation.
5. Volunteer. There are many volunteer options available if you are interested in preserving the unique culture of Ometepe Island. This is one of the best.
Ometepe Petroglyph Project

If you are interested in learning more about the archeological history of Nicaragua, below are two good links. If you are aware of any other books or websites, please let me know. It is slim pickings in the archeology and ceramica world of Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan Ceramic Pottery Exhibit
Museums and Galleries of Nicaragua