imgheader_r3_c8_up.gif','imgheader_r3_c10_up.gif','imgheader_r3_c11_up.gif','imgheader_r3_c12_up.gif','imgheader_r3_c14_up.gif','imgheader_r3_c15_up.gif','imgheader_r3_c16_up.gif','imgheader_r3_c16.gif')">
 

Galapagos:Ecuador's Greatest Asset
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Indigenous Cultures
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador National Park
Ecuador Hotels
Protected areas Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Inti Raymi
Ecuador Hotels
Carnival in Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
World Bird Festival
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Adventure Travel
Ecuador Hotels
History of Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador: A Birder's Paradise
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuadorian Music
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Museums
Ecuador Hotels
 
Cultural Guayaquil
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Beaches & Coast
Ecuador Hotels
Esmeraldas Province
Ecuador Hotels
Guayaquil Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Guayas Province
Ecuador Hotels
Humpback Whales
Ecuador Hotels
Haciendas in the Coast
Ecuador Hotels
Interview to the people of Guayaquil
Ecuador Hotels
Manabí Province
Ecuador Hotels
Machalilla National Park
Ecuador Hotels
Panama Hats
Ecuador Hotels
The Sun's Route
Ecuador Hotels
The Coast of Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
 

All souls day in Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Adventure Travel
Ecuador Hotels
Angel Ecological Reserve
Ecuador Hotels
Banos Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Cloudforest Mindo
Ecuador Hotels
Climbing Cotopaxi
Ecuador Hotels
Candles, A Symbol of Resurrection
Ecuador Hotels
Cultural Cuenca
Ecuador Hotels
Cuenca Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Cuenca, World Cultural Heritage Site
Ecuador Hotels
Chiva Express
Ecuador Hotels
Cholas Cuencanas
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador, you'll need to know
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Cloud Forest
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador tourism news
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Railroad Train
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Haciendas
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Winter solstice
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Spanish Classes
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuadorian Distances
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador's Southern Highland
Ecuador Hotels
Guayasamín Museum
Ecuador Hotels
Holidays Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Handicraft in Cuenca
Ecuador Hotels
Holy Week in Quito
Ecuador Hotels
Inti Raymi in Ingapirca
Ecuador Hotels
Inti Raymi in northern Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Land of Hummingbirds
Ecuador Hotels
Loja Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Pawkar Raymi Festivities
Ecuador Hotels
Podocarpus Birds and its Reserve
Ecuador Hotels
Polylepis Forest - The paramo of El Angel
Ecuador Hotels
Quito: City of legends
Ecuador Hotels
Quito Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Quito's aerial ropeway (TeleferiQo)
Ecuador Hotels
Quito Cultural
Ecuador Hotels
Quito Botanical Garden
Ecuador Hotels
Quito Museums
Ecuador Hotels
Otavalo Imbabura Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Riobamba
Ecuador Hotels
San Rafael Waterfall
Ecuador Hotels
The Devil's Nose
Ecuador Hotels
Tsachilas - Colorados
Ecuador Hotels
The Andes of Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Thermals & SPAs
Ecuador Hotels
The Northern Highland
Ecuador Hotels
The Central Highland
Ecuador Hotels
Volunteer Work in Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Vilcabamba Nature Guide
Ecuador Hotels
Yamor Festivities Otavalo
Ecuador Hotels
 
Jungle Rainforest Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Ecuador Amazon Rainforest
Ecuador Hotels
Amazon Day
Ecuador Hotels
Chonta: From Indigenous Wisdom To Exclusive Design
Ecuador Hotels
 
Galapagos Islands
Ecuador Hotels
Galapagos Ecuador
Ecuador Hotels
Galapagos Islands History
Ecuador Hotels
Galapagos Foundations
Ecuador Hotels
Discover Galapagos
Ecuador Hotels
Protecting all the species of
the Galapagos Islands

Ecuador Hotels
 
Ecuador » Museums »
The Precolumbian Past of Ecuador

Museums in Quito America and Australia were the last continental masses of our planet where man stepped on. Probably the American continent was reached for the first time from Asia through the Bering Strait. Several theories, not thoroughly confirmed, explain the means of conveyance used to cross this narrow passage. The most accepted proposal holds that man walked through the strait during a period where its bottom dried out because the levels of the sea had descended. Such phenomenon occurred several times during the last two million years as a result of the glaciation in the Pleistocene, which produced the accumulation of considerably large masses of water so as to form huge layers of ice that covered vast areas in the north sections of America, Europe and Asia.

According to the most recent findings in some rocky shelters located in eastern Brazil, the presence of man in South American dates from approximately thirty thousand years ago. As a result of the global cooling of our planet, this subcontinent may have had a drier though less warm climate. Excepting small areas of dense forest, the Amazon Basin was covered most likely with a canopy of dry forest, a fact that fostered the expansion of man, who was still not adapted to the tropical forest.

As to the present Ecuadorian territory, the Sierra (Highlands) may have been one of the last areas in South America to be inhabited by man, owing to the high altitude of the Andean summits and the effects of glacial eras. An intense volcanism would have made nearly impossible to live in the Cordilleras and the Andean tablelands or plateaus. Difficult conditions prevailed in savannas, dry forests and mangrooves in the lowlands along the Pacific coast. Other human groups have lately adapted to the equatorial rain forest ecosystem characteristic of the eastern and northwestern lowlands. In the present territory of Ecuador archaeologists have found undeniable evidence proving that man already inhabited this land eleven thousand years ago.

The first inhabitants of the Sierra were hunting-and-gathering Paleoindians grouped in small bands comprised of fifteen or twenty related individuals. Adult men practiced the hunting of deer and Andean camelidae.

Women, elders and children gathered vegetable food, snails, beetles, insect larvae, birds, eggs and small reptiles. Using a complex technique, these early South American inhabitants manufactured hunting weapons and other artifacts of different solid stones such as basalt, flint, quartzite, chalcedony and riolite. Obsidian, the most use full stone, was obtained from the extensive lava formations at Quiscatola and Mullumica in the Province of Pichincha. The early occurrence of these artifacts throughout the Highland evidences the existence of a primitive network of long-distance exchanges.

At the same time several archaic hunting-and-gathering group settled the Pacific shores, establishing the culture known as Las Vegas. Vestiges of their settlements have been found at Las Vegas and other sites in the Peninsula of Santa Elena. Beside game and wild plants, their diet was largely comprised of fish and sea molluscs. Since 6000 B.C. these groups probably practiced a rudimentary cultivation of some edible plants. Although they were not sedentary people, their habit was to return to their settlements on a periodical basis. There they lived during a certain season of the year. The site "80" at Las Vegas was occupied recursively by man during four thousand years. The lithic technology of the people from Las Vegas was more rudimentary than Paleoindian technology from the Sierra, but the fact that they made axes of polished stone and artifacts of seashells distinguishes the former.

Some outstanding features show that the culture of Las Vegas is a direct antecedent of the complex societies belonging to the Formative Period. Such features are: recursive seasonal settling of the same base camp, including solid and permanent shelters; a communitary ceremonialism reflected on complex funeral practices and a communal permanent cementery; rudimentary cultivation of edible plants and such fibers as cotton; finally, the manufacture and use of utensils made of polished stone.

About six thousand years ago the first permanent and organized settlements were established in the present territory of Ecuador. It is the beginning of the so-called Formative Period (4000 - 600 B.C.). In the case of Valdivia culture, archaeologists have found permanent villages consisting of large oval houses arranged around extensive squares which function as ceremonial places for the community. The building of other ritual structures found at different sites belonging to this culture had a ceremonial purpose as well. This time witnessed the beginning of domestic and ceremonial pottery whose artistic and technologic levels are outstanding in the case of chorrera culture. At this time the cultures from Cerro Narrío and Cotocollao underwent a development in the Highlands while the culture of Pastaza, Upano, and Cotundo appeared in the Upper Amazon basin. All the abovementioned peoples were sedentary and practiced an exchange of goods and ideas among them and with the cultures from the Coast.
It is noteworthy that a series of formal and technical characteristics of Chorrera culture are reflected on the artistic styles (particularly in ceramic) of other contemporary cultures from the Highland (e.g. Cerro-Narrío and al Chimba) and the Amazon basin (e.g. the culture identified from the findings at the site Cueva de los Tayos or "Cave of Tayos"). Also, later cultures from the Coast such as La Tolita, Jama-Coaque and Bahía have their origin in local Chorrera features. This fact suggest, a faraway antecedent of a territorially identified culture.

Museums of RiobambaThe want of exotic goods used both to perform ceremonies and to show personal prestige fostered the emergence of exchange networks connecting distant societies that settled various ecologies with different natural resources. As time passed, this trade together with the exploitation and manufacture of goods became major activities in the economic and politic development of primitive societies. This fact probably simulated the emergence of a "caste" consisting of socially outstanding individuals, the so-called merchant-travellers or mindaláes. The first artistic representation of these individuals seems to correspond to the social type known as basketman, which occurs for the first time at the end of the Formative Period.

Among the raw materials which exerted the largest influence to make the present territory of Ecuador the principal nucleus of an extensive network of trade along the American coast of the Pacific Ocean, the colored and brilliant seashells from tropical regions are undoubtedly the most determinant. Large seashells served as trumpets (pututos or quipas) played during religious ceremonies. An important symbol of male fertility, these instruments were also offerings to the native gods. Other shells were sought after for their brilliance and color, becoming the raw material to manufacture highly valued personal ornaments and various objects of worship. For pre-Columbian peoples a spiny shell of the species Spondylus princeps (mullu, in Quichua) was the most important because of its characteristics: it was identified with a vulva by its beautifull blood-red color, its brightness and special shape, thus being considered as an element with which people could propitiate fertility, rains, water for irrigation, and the reproduction of men, animal and plants. By its great symbolic value, this shell was considered as the food preferred by gods, which could not be absent from the worship places. Like the deities, both men and women adorned themselves with objects manufactured of this material. All these characteristics made spondylus not only a major staple of trade but also a measure of value and a unit wealth accumulation.

The Spondylus princeps is found only in the warn waters of the Pacific Ocean, from Ecuador to Mexico Accordingly, the most accessible source where the Andean peoples could obtain this shell was the Ecuadorian coastal strip, a fact which promoted the emergence of a flourishing industry of exploitation and manufacture, whose produce was exported to all the corners of the Andes.

The Period of Regional Development began about 300 B.C. and lasted approximately nine hundred years up to 600 A.D. In this period, society became stratified. The commercial exchange and the public religious worship were monopolized by a specialized caste which rapidly attained social prestige. Apparently we cannot confirm the existence of an established political power, but the emergence of an economically powerful and oligarchic dominant group that exerted a decisive influence on society is certain.

Great ceremonial centers were built. They were comprised of numerous tolas (earth pyramids) that formed the foundations of "temples" or worship buildings. Crowds of people resorted to these places in order to worship their gods, bury their dead, and participate in collective religious ceremonies. But the temples were production centers as well, where ceremonial and funeral ornaments were manufactured as symbols of social rank and economic power. To this end, people worked different metals such as gold, silver, platinum and copper, of which a series of alloys were obtained by means of enriching techniques. As to ceramic, it is worth saying that, beside the luxurious jars used in ceremonies and the domestic vessels, the potter produced artistical representations of persons, animals, fruits and mythical beings. Of the latter, some large representations served as worship figures, although most of them were used as votive offerings and symbols of benefits requested to and received from a deity. Often archaeologists find these objects as part of the funeral apparel of the dead. Noteworthy is also the plastic representation of individuals covered with a profusely adorned ceremonial attire that seems to reflect their high social position and wealth. This is the case specially in Bahía and Jama-Coaque culture. The fact that the figures were standing or sitting individuals, not chiefs on "power seats", points out that, despite their high social rank, these individuals did not possessed a legally established authority, that is, they were not exactly caciques but "influencing persons". Often the objects (oars and bags) represented as being held by the figures, or those characteristic of their attire (shells, cacao beans?, objects of gold and other precious metals), seemingly suggest the origins and foundations of their social pre-eminence. Thus, they could be imagined as outstanding "merchant-travellers" or mindadaláes whose high social status they owned to the success of their commercial activities.

To this respect, it is worth saying that the "giants" from Bahía are located by the sea, a fact which suggests that the principal commercial activities probably were carried out along the Pacific shores. Moreover, the most important worship center of this culture was built in the Island of La Plata, principal area of the spondylus shell.

The great ceremonial center of La Tolita was built in an island not far from the shore, where important rivers from the Andes flow into the sea, at the southernmost end of a network of navigable coastal channels in northern Ecuador. This location points out that La Tolita was associated with navigation and trade.

The scarce archaeological findings in the Sierra are located at strategic points of access to the Andean valleys from the Coast or the Amazon, they being also important for the inter-regional commercial exchange: Cumbayá and la Chimba in the Northern Highlands; Cerro Narrío and Pirincay in the Southern Highlands. At these sites archaeologists have found pottery from the Coast and local replicas (LA Tolita and Jama Coaque), as well as goods of the same origins (spondylus shell and coca, for example).

Noteworthy in Northern and Central Highlands is the presence of a high-quality ceramic style. It is a minor though widespread pottery whose origin would be on the eastern Andean slopes, Valley of Quijos. This style has been named Panzaleo or Cosanga-Píllaro. It relates the various cultures from the Highland to different ceramic traditions. The wide distribution of Panzaleo pottery hints at the significance of commercial exchanges between the Highlands and the Amazon basin, particularly concerning the supply of shamanic items such as coca and other hallucinogenic drugs.

During the Period of Integration (600-1534 A.D.) the stratification of society became rigid and the political power was assumed only by a single individual, the curaca or Indian chief. A large part of the surplus produced by the community was appropriated by this individual, who also held an indisputable control of all his subjects. The curaca benefited from the harvests produced by the fields where community had constructed terraces and ridges (camellones) to improve their fertility. But he also appropriated the profits from the trade of luxurious items undertaken by specialized merchants. Archaeologists have found extensive terraced fields in the valley of the Guayas River and throughout the Northern Highlands. According to the rule of reciprocity prevailing in these societies, the curaca should compensate his subjects on a regular basis by presenting them with exotic goods and organizing feasts where they could drink chichi and eat any food lavishly. These festivals were held in large ceremonial centers, some with huge earth pyramids whose ruins are found in the northern Sierra, the inland Coast, and the northwestern slopes of the Andes, the most representive vestiges being those at Cochasqui.

In this period a considerable demographic development took place, which promoted the building of important engineering work on the basic of the existing structure of power. The result was an increased agricultural production which concentrated labor on cultivation, exploitation of raw materials, and manufacture of export goods such as salt, dried fish, cotton, coca, hallucinogenic plants, hells, seashells, metals, fine fabrics, ornaments of shell, gold and copper.

The lordships established an important exchange of ideas and stylistic influences in spite of their well-defined politic autonomy, their cultural differences, and the frequent wars conflicts among them. An evident sign of these relations was the decoration of ceramic with negative painting techniques and overpainted strips of red or yellow, features which Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño gave the name of Horizonte Tuncabuán (Tuncahuan Horizon). The occurrence of this decoration is evident throughout the Ecuadorian Highlands and some areas of the Coast, particularly at the sites of Milagro-Quevedo culture.

When the professional traders came under the direct sway of the curacas, these Indian chiefs became interested in the commercial activities inside and outside their territory. Thus, competence and conflicts arose not only among individuals but also between peoples for the control of trade routes and centers of exploitation and production of sought-after goods. The best known case of conflict between lordships is the conquest of Jama-Coaque region and the commercial port of Atacames by the lordship Salangone from Manabí. Likewise, similar causes were the origin of unceasing wars between the lordship f La Puná and the chiefdom of Tumbes.

The production of goods for export was a major activity in the coastal societies. According to the historic data, the Manta region exported primarily cotton blankets and seashells (esp. spondylus). In southern Manabí archaeologists have found thousands of spindle whorls beautifully decorated with incised motives. Such ornaments prove the importance attained by the spinning of cotton used to weave blankets. Some major centers of exploitation and shell-working have been identified as well. The millenary site named Peñón del Río (River Cliff), a famous commercial settlement, has been found in the lower section of the Guayas basin, homeland of the Milagro-Quevedo culture. Rough and worked copper were the principal goods exchanged in the Period of Integration.

The maritime trade connecting very distant points is evidenced by historic reports and archaeological findings. The transportation of a considerable quantity of goods was undertaken with the aid of large sailing rafts made of logs.

During the first half of the 15th century the Inca ethnic group from southern Peru initiated a long series of conquests which allowed its members to build up, in less than a century, a vast empire, the so-called Tabuantinsuyo. By the early 1500's the Inca empire included all the Andean Cordilleras and the Pacific Coast, from the southernmost area of present Colombia to central Chile and the Andean section of Argentine. Over then millon souls belonging to hundreds of different ethnic groups were the populaton of Tabuantinsuyo. A quick and safe coordination between the central administrative power and the provincial authorities was possible owing to a great central route -qhapaq ñan or Great Road-connecting both the northern and the southern borders and passing through Cuzco. Numberless military garrisons scattered all over the empire prevented any uprising against the Inca rulers and their local representatives.

The Inca economy was founded upon an efficient control of production through the monopoly of various activities by the State: mining, metalworking, gold working, manufacture of fine fabric, pottery and a large part of the raising of camelidae, moreover, large storehouses distributed throughout empire preserved the harvests from extensive areas selected by the State in every province, the so-called "lands of the Sun " and "lands of the Inca".

The Inca began to conquest the territory of present Ecuador around 1460 under the command of Prince Tupac Yupanqui, during the rule of Emperor Pachacute. They managed to subdue all the Andean ethnic groups, including those of Quito and Imbabura. The son of Tupac Yupanqui, Huayna Cápac, born in Tomebamba, faced a general uprising by the peoples from the Ecuadorian Andes, their subjection being attained only after many years of cruel wars.

To control the empire properly, the Incas built a number of important cities and minor administrative centers. In the present territory of Ecuador, Tomebamba and Quito, located in the southern and northern Highlands respectively, were the largest Inca cities. The famous secondary center of Ingapirca -formerly Hatun Cañar- is still preserved with its magnificent Temple of the Sun, named the Castle or Ellipse.

One of the principal reason that explain the Inca conquest of what now corresponds to present Ecuador is the importance of commercial activities, an indirect control of this trade provided the State with goods otherwise impossible to get directly. This statement is proved by the fact that the principal economical and political centers in our territory lay where the central route from the Highlands crossed the routes from the Coast and, probably, those from the Amazon basin: Tomebamba, Riobamba, Latacunga, Quito, Otavalo and Caranqui.

The broken Andean landscape, the vast Amazon basin, the warn El Niño current, the cold Humboldt current, the Torrid Zone and the unique variety of ecological layers characterize the present territory of Ecuador as the scenary of continued, widespread and complex cultural interactions that have lasted over 10000 years.

A number of groups took in this territory and created a well-defined cultural identity, of which we are the heirs. The gradual development of a nation with its particular features is attested by the territorial expansion and cultural integration of pre-Inca lordships (Chorrera-Narrío-Cotocollao-Chimba, Chorrera-Bahia-Tolita-Jama-Coaque, Cosanga-Píllaro or Panzaleo, Milagro-Quevedo and Manteño-Huancavilca), and by by the general occurrence of such cultural material as the spondylus shell, pottery, coin-axes and gold objects with inter-regional zoomorphous designs.

Credit: Antonio Fresco y Catálogo del Museo del Banco Central del Ecuador Sala de Arqueología.
© Banco Central del Ecuador