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Archaeologists Uncovering Ceremonial Center of Ancient Pre-Incan Civilization

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Coyhis
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« on: May 25, 2011, 01:16:59 am »

Archaeologists Uncovering Ceremonial Center of Ancient Pre-Incan Civilization in Ecuador

By Dan McLerran   Tue, May 24, 2011



Researchers continue to unravel the mysteries of a Pre-Inca civilization that commanded ceremonial centers and a far-flung trade and road network in present-day Ecuador.
Archaeologists Uncovering Ceremonial Center of Ancient Pre-Incan Civilization in Ecuador

Archaeologists are researching an archaeological site near Quito, Ecuador, that reveals remains of an ancient civilization that pre-dated the Inca and produced monumental architecture and a sophisticated system of trade and communication routes that fed a flourishing culture from 800 until 1660 A.D.  Renewed excavations at the site are set to begin during the summer of 2011.

Called Tulipe, the site has already evidenced some 2,000 pyramids and mounds, but focus will be directed at a complex that consists of 8 “piscinas” (7 low-lying or sunken stone structures containing water that are polygonal or semicircular in shape and one circular), and several pyramids and artificial mounds called "tolas".  The complex is located in a tropical forest area northwest of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. It is thought that these were the work of the Yumbo people, a group that practiced a developed agricultural system and created a system of ancient roads or trails beneath the forest canopy called Culuncos that supported an impressive trade and communication network between the settlements of the mountainous areas and those of the coast. The tolas are generally about 65 feet high, made of earth and a mix of other materials. Some of the tolas feature steps or ramps. Their functions are thought to have been both ceremonial and domestic. The piscinas, or sunken stone structures or basins that contained water, are thought to have had some astronomical and religious significance. Interconnected by channels for transporting water, the details of their function and meaning continue to mystify scholars and scientists.   

Reports excavations director Nicholas Ntovas: "Originally their ruins were disregarded by Spanish chroniclers and other historians......the various finds and their relative positions point to a rather important and advanced people and it is thought that at one point they may have controlled the very important trade route between the Andes and Amazon and the Pacific coast. The Yumbos were characterized as peaceful and communicative people, no traces of weapons or wars have been found in the areas of their development".

The arrival of the Incas in 1400 A.D. changed the world in which the Yumbo people lived, but according to archaeologists and historians, their arrival had only limited effect on them, unlike the destines of some other cultures and settlements during the time of the Inca conquest. "The presence of the Incas did not change the Yumbo culture," reports Ntovas, "because they had their own system of political and economic organization. It was a village of merchants with [a] wide range of products such as coca, hot peppers, bird feathers, salt, shells, and crystals. The Yumbos quickly learned the conquering language, products and needs, thus becoming a trading partner with the Incas. Later, the Spaniards also met the Yumbos and even used their paths to reach Esmeraldas and Manabi".

In addition to archaeologists and other specialists, Ntovas will be leading a team of students and volunteers to help excavate and record selected areas within the site.

Cover Photo, Top: Cloud Forest in Ecuador. It is a cloud forest like this one that surrounds the archaeological site of Tulipe. Photo Hjvannes. Wikimedia Commons


By Dan McLerran

Dan McLerran

As Managing Editor of Popular Archaeology Magazine, Dan is a freelance writer specializing in archaeology.  He studied anthropology and archaeology in undergraduate and graduate school and has been an active participant on archaeological excavations in the U.S. and abroad.  He is the creator and administrator of Archaeological Digs, a popular weblog about archaeological excavation and field school opportunities.  He is also the creator and administrator of ArchaeologyNet, a business-oriented social network for archaeologists, students, volunteers, and educators.
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