The Ancient Valdivia Culture in Ecuador

An archaeologist, Emilio Estrada, discovered the Valdivia culture in the year 1956 and it has been determined that it is one of the oldest cultures that can be found across the Americas. It was derived from the Las Vegas Culture, and Estrada was able to establish that this culture was alive between the years 3500 and 1800 BC in Ecuador. Archaeological discoveries assisted Estrada in making his determinations through pottery and various other items discovered. When artefacts found on Kyushu Island in Japan were compared to those found in Ecuador, a theory emerged that there was trade between these two communities, however, this theory has not been proven beyond a doubt.

The pottery pieces spoken about are unique to the Valdivia culture and were at first made for practicality and were therefore very rough. Their pottery was generally made from gray and red clay, but as the years went on, pottery became a more refined skill. Ceramic works became art pieces with the attention to detail becoming more noticeable. Ceramic figurines, specifically the feminine figurine of Venus of Valdivia, became a trademark pieces. Artisans also became more artistic, creating mortars and bowls, using animals as their inspiration for their designs.

Discoveries have shown that communities lived in traditional settlements built in circles, with their homes being constructed on the outskirts of a central plaza. It is believed that each community had their own specific form of agriculture, such as fishing, hunting or crop farming. Farmers were known to produce crops of cassava, maize, squash, hot peppers, corn and kidney beans. Farming with cotton was essential, as the Valdivia would use their cotton to weave clothing items.

What became of the Valdivia culture remains a mystery to today, as there is no sign or record of the culture migrating, nor was a definite end to their existence ever found. Most archaeologists and scholars believe that dwindling numbers forced members of the communities to leave their coastal settlement and go in search of a more prosperous life elsewhere. It seems that the Valdivia set off to find a new start and became lost to history in doing so.