Quito has a wonderful little museum in the old town, opened four years ago, that has a fairly large collection of pre-Colombian art. Containing about 5000 pieces, the museum is made up of archaeological items from most of the cultures which formerly inhabited all regions of what is now Ecuador. The museum is housed in a restored mansion built originally in 1671.
The collection is organized thematically, with a focus on native ancestral ritualism and spirituality in the Americas. The pieces date from 7000 BC through the arrival of the Spaniards in 1530 AD. The ancient cultures inhabited the Pacific Coast all the way to the tropical forests and mountains of the Andes. The artifacts in the collection include creations in pottery, stone, conch, metal, textiles and wood. They show an incredible range of technical skills and a significant diversity of styles and shapes.
The history of the region began at the end of the first ice age. The pre-ceramic period, which ended around 4200 BC, consisted of the Las Vegas culture, who were hunter-gatherers and fishermen on the coast, and the Inga culture located near present-day Quito. The Formative period began and flourished with farming and the use of ceramics. The major culture then was that of the Valdivia, the first culture where significant remains have been found, dating as early as 3500 BC.
This period was followed by the development of more stable cultures located in discrete towns, focused more on farming , trading and other activities all the way through to the 15th century. The Incans invaded the area from Peru in the late 1400’s, but only controlled Ecuador until the arrival of the Spaniards.
The museum is well organized, and with an accomplished guide can be reviewed in an hour or so. The open courtyard includes comfortable seating and offers limited refreshments.