Pre-Columbian Mound Complexes in the Upano River Valley, Lowland Ecuador

  • Ernesto Salazar

Ecuadorian archaeology is to be understood in terms of a tight interaction between major ecosystems: the coastal region, the highlands, and the Amazon region. A synthesis, however, has been hampered by the uneven development of archaeology, particularly in the Amazon region, where little research has been carried out. This situation is largely due to the misconception that the terra firme region has been, since pre-Columbian times, a hinterland with few cultural innovations. Recent research has not only shown a livelier picture of cultural development in the region, but also a wealth of archaeological data unexpected a few years ago.

This chapter will address present day developments in the archaeology of Ecuador’s Amazon region, with particular emphasis on the discovery of a series of pre-Columbian settlements in the upper Upano Valley, Morona Santiago Province. It is suggested that a high demographic concentration on the eastern slopes of the Andes, during the Regional Development period (500 BC-AD 500), was made possible by the active role of these groups in an exchange network between the highlands and the plain of the Amazon. The upper Upano region was a locus of chiefdom-level sociopolitical complexity characterized by prolific labor-intensive mound-building activity as well as dynamic intra- and interregional trade relationships. Upano is one of a growing number of cognate societies known in other parts of lowland South America, attesting to the significance of the tropical region for the rise of pre-Columbian social complexity, while raising questions about the limits to political development in that environment.


Eastern Slope Amazon Region Archaeological Survey Habitation Site Regional Road 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernesto Salazar
    • 1
  1. 1.Escuela de AntropologíaUniversidad Católica del EcuadorEcuador

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