Ecuador

Ecuador

Ecuador

Ecuador

Excerpt

As next-door neighbour to Peru, Ecuador has been overshadowed since the Conquest. Tales of wonders and rich booty lured first adventurers and more recently archaeologists to the south, the centre of the greatest empire in aboriginal America. By-passed by the major chroniclers until after the indigenous cultures had fallen into decline, and without a native system of writing, Ecuador depends on archaeology for reconstruction of its prehistory. The record is very incomplete, in part because relatively little work has been done, and in part because of the deleterious effects of the tropical climate.

Although Ecuador provides a wide variety of environments, none is conducive to the preservation of perishable materials. There are no perennial deserts like those in Peru, and dry rock shelters of the kind that have provided evidence of early agriculture in Mexico have not been investigated, if they exist. Only a rare combination of circumstances preserves a piece of wood or cloth, and for an archaeologist to find such an object is an unusual stroke of luck. When one considers that under normal conditions, only metal, stone, pottery, shell and bone will survive, one must also reflect on the small proportion of objects that can be expected to be made from such materials. So what confonts the archaeologist in Ecuador is not the skeleton of an extinct culture, but only a few disarticulated bones.

This situation partly accounts for the fact that most of what is known of Ecuadorian archaeology is the handiwork of two Ecuadorians. The first was Jacinto Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño, whose investigations were concentrated in the highlands. Working in the early decades of this century, when many modern techniques of excavation and analysis were as yet undeveloped, some of his inferences are subject to revision on the basis of present . . .

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