July 2003 saw a significant discovery in Ecuador by IRD archaeologists: 4000-year-old structures indicating the presence of one of the first great Andean civilizations in the upper Amazon Basin, where their presence had not been suspected. The site is at Santa Ana- La Florida in the south of Ecuador. Subsequent systematic excavations of other parts of the site led to the discovery of sophisticated architectural complexes. Among these are a tomb and a range of diverse vestiges: ceramic bottles, plain or ornamented stone bowls, medallions and pieces of necklace in turquoise, malachite and other green stones. These objects convey the refinement achieved in lapidary art of this new Pre-Columbian civilization. They provide proof that this site was used for ceremonial purposes and funerary rites. These discoveries confirm the hypothesis put forward following the first excavations. They highlight the importance of the site and of the people who were settled there. They call into question theories on how the first great Andean civilizations emerged and the supposed interactions that took place between the different populations of these regions.
The excavations conducted in 2003 concentrated on the eastern sector of the site which corresponds to a terrace overhanging the bed of the River Valladolid. This part was the priority at the time as it was prey to illicit excavations. Several sets of architectural structures were discovered. Present on three levels, they correspond to successive eras of settlement. Near the surface (to 35 cm depth), remains of walls of a 20-m-long rectangular structure along with accumulations of pebbles were found over the whole terrace. They were possibly foundations of daub-constructed dwellings of peoples from the Corrugado horizon (from the VIIIth to the XVth Century A.D.).
Next, subsurface search down to 190 cm uncovered the most remarkable of the architectural features: an extensive set of concentric walls appearing to mark the centre of the site and ending in a spiral. A stone-clad hollow at the core of the structure served as a hearth base (indicated by reddened soil) of about 80 cm diameter. A rich assemblage of ceremonial offertory objects was found bearing: a mask in green stone covered by a polished stone bowl, an anthropomorphic medallion also in green stone and many turquoise necklace pieces ornamented with zoomorphic (animal-shaped) motifs (birds and snakes).
Bénédicte Robert | EurekAlert!
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