Day 45 Unearthing a 3,500-Year-Old Culture on the Coast of Ecuador

The Machalilla culture (1,400–800 BC) remains largely unresearched. It spread along the coast of Ecuador and had relations extending to the highlands and the north Peruvian coast. It was named in 1958 by the Ecuadorian archaeologist E. Estrada, who discovered a new kind of ceramic in what is now Machalilla. Not much more is know about it to date.

Aerial view from a drone of the Ma-Lan site, around 400 meters from the sea in the southern bay of Machalilla (Photo: H. Prümers, DAI KAAK)

Since 2017, a team from the DAI’s Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Cultures, together with the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in Quito, has sought to change this. Using charred organic residues from the insides of ceramic fragments, the site was dated to the period between 1380 and 1000 BC.

In addition to the figurines, the excavation team mainly unearthed objects made of sea snails (mollusks) such as fishhooks and buttons in all stages of production.

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