This week’s Travel Photo of the Week takes us to Nicaragua, to the volcanic island of Ometepe in Lago de Nicaragua to see ancient petroglyphs. Although petroglyphs can be found throughout the country of Nicaragua they are heavily concentrated on the island of Ometepe, the largest volcanic island in a fresh water lake found on the planet. The hourglass shaped island is made up of two volcanoes the active volcano Concepcion and the extinct Volcano Maderas. The island’s name comes from the Nahuatl word ometepe which means the two mountains. Originally Volcano Maderas was called Coatlan “the place where the sun lives.’ While Volcano Concepcion was know as Choncoteciguatepe “the brother of the moon” as well as Mestliltepe “the menstruating mountain.” The names indicate the importance of these two volcanoes to the Nahuatls and could explain the high number of petroglyphs on the island. The most famous Nahuatls were the Aztec but their decedents can be found throughout Mexico and central America. Nahuatl is still spoken on the island of Ometepe.
The petroglyphs, or carved images, in the soft volcanic stone are most commonly found on the north and north eastern slopes of Volcano Madras. The carvings, dedicated to the Nahuatl gods were made around 300 A.D. and were most likely tied to religious rituals and sacrifices. Common motifs include maps of the island, stylized turtles and anamorphic figures. The most common petroglyph are spirals believed to be associated with time, space, or possibly calendars.
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