Pottery related to unknown culture found in Ecuador

FAR EASTERN FEDERAL UNIVERSITY—Archaeologists of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS (Russia), Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) (Ecuador), and Tohoku University (Japan) found shards of ceramic vessels associated with the cultural sediments of early periods of the Real Alto archaeological site in Ecuador. Findings date back to 4640 – 4460 BC, a period that borders with Valdivia, one of the oldest pottery-featured cultures in North and South America. A related article is published in Antiquity.

During the excavations at the site, Russian scientists found fragments of ceramic vessels at a depth of 75 cm to 1 meter. They belong to the insufficiently studied San Pedro complex. Radiocarbon analysis by mass spectrometer showed the pottery dates back to 4640-4460 BC. This period borders or coincides with the first stages of the Valdivia culture, the world famous ceramic figures, a kind of symbol of Ecuador. At the same time, the fragments of San Pedro pottery differ from the Valdivian by decorative composition and application.

The shards of San Pedro pottery correlate with fragments from Real Alto and other locations of archaeological excavations retrieved in the 70s and 80s, but attributed to no particular culture. Thus, the researchers received evidence to support additional arguments speaking to a new archaeological culture related to formative period. This one existed and developed simultaneously with Valdivia on the Pacific coast of Ecuador.

“The mass emergence of pottery was a kind of technical breakthrough associated with many aspects of human life and the level of economic development in different parts of the globe,” said Alexander Popov, who is Head of the Russian archeological expedition to Ecuador and Director of the Educational and Scientific Museum FEFU of the School of Arts and Humanities of Far Eastern Federal University. “Ceramic vessels belonging to different cultures developed simultaneously confirm that our ancestors had evolved in terms of cultural diversity. It is curious that, despite the different vectors of human development, in the technological sense we were moving in the same direction.”

According to the scientist, in the next stage of excavations the research team will look for additional artifacts of the new culture. Such findings may help determine conditions for the culture development with more precise accuracy.

Researchers believe that pottery fragments related to an even more archaic time can be found in Ecuador, i.e., a more archaic cultural layer may exist. From that point, one could determine whether pottery was invented in South America at the same time as in the other ceramic cultures of the globe, or if it was imported. The information will help with understanding the processes of parallel development of people on different sides of the Pacific Ocean and, in general, the multi-vector development of human communities.

FEFU researchers seek for common details and local options concerning the development of human civilization on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean—in South America and East Asia. The scientists are comparing the adaptation of ancient people to environmental changes that influenced the economic, domestic and other aspects of populations.

Previously FEFU archaeologists in Ecuador found ancient human remains dating back to 6 to 10 thousand years ago. Those excavations were carried out in the Atahualpa canton, yielding findings that belong to the Las Vegas archaeological culture of the Stone Age.


Shards of an ancient ceramic vessel from the insufficiently studied San Pedro complex found on Real Alto site, Ecuador. FEFU press office


The museum complex of the Real Alto site, Ecuador. FEFU press office


Article Source: Far Eastern Federal University news release


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