The Catapas Tribe have all but disappeared from Costa Rica with their sole remaining remnant of Petroglyphs at the Itiquis River site where they were found.
Before Columbus set foot in what later became known as the Americas, there were several indigenous tribes living in the Central Valley area and along the coasts of Costa Rica. Many of these tribes have since disappeared from the country, because of harsh colonial treatment, disease and enslavement among other reasons. The last remaining strongholds for indigenous people are finally receiving some degree of protection and consideration, but all that remains of the Catapa people of the Itiquis River in Alajuela Province, Costa Rica, is the drawings they left on rocks in the area.
The Catapas were a somewhat powerful indigenous group for a time along the Itiquis River, and they reigned over an area that extended from near Alajuelita for fifteen kilometers to Santa Barbara, Heredia, Costa Rica. The swath of their group’s domain could have been larger, but an intensive study of the Catapas has never been made. All that remains of the once thriving group are the petroglyphs on the river rocks which have several plausible reasons for existing.
Some pictures are detailed drawings of iguanas and possibly other lizards which were most likely a food source for the Catapas. The other pictures are that of sunflowers and other natural manifestations. These could have served as sign points for people traveling either by the river or along the river banks. All of this is only speculation though, because a detailed study needs to be undertaken to provide a better understanding of the role the Catapas served in the area. It could point to a more complete study of Indigenous people in Costa Rica, as well, which is seriously lacking.
The Catapas are just one example of an early indigenous group who lost out when Spanish conquerors came to Costa Rica. Outside of a few tribes that left large and durable relics such as the Stone Spheres of the Diquís or gold carved pieces found at the Gold Museum, there isn’t all that much that is understood about Pre-Columbian life in Costa Rica.