b1410. Ecuador: The Secret Art of Precolumbian Ecuador
by Miguel Angel Cabodevilla, Thomas B. F. Cummins, Leon Doyon, Richard Lunniss, Clemencia Plazas, Karen E. Stothert, and Francisco Valdez
5 continents editions. photographs by Pierre-Yves Dhinaut
360 pp., hardback, 93/4 x 113/4 in. 260 colour ills. New title. ISBN 88-7439-337-. We must give the archaeological riches of Ecuador the place they deserve. Archaeological literature has largely ignored this region of the northern Andes because it is caught between two major cultural phenomena: the monumental architecture of Peru in the south and the metallurgical riches of Colombia in the north. Major ecological phenomena converge on the northern Andes: the cold Humboldt stream mingles with Niño?s warm currents, creating an environment for various cultures which drew nourishment from the rich fauna and flora. This special environment has been exploited by human groups from very early on (Valdivia, 3500 BC) who developed a culture based on kingship, supervised by a religious authority. This formed the core of an ideological superstructure that became a ?cultural story?, which spread from western Mexico as far as Peru and gave rise to trade in sacred shells. In the process, the peoples of present-day Ecuador
became the Argonauts of the Pacific. A social structure based on religious power?the shaman?required ingenious management of the essential elements, water, earth and fire, evident in the pottery used for a whole range of objects and cultural goods. In the Andean highlands, people tried to adapt to the environment by inventing new techniques and took advantage of ecological pockets to develop another type of ceramics. There, for example, negative painting was used to express a dualist vision of the cosmos, while metalworking exploited excellent physical and climatic conditions, that is, places where the force of the winds converged naturally, to establish efficient workshops. In particular, they managed to make a gold and copper alloy known as ?tumbaga?. Beyond the Andes stretches the immense Amazonian basin. Groups of men from the ?maralló?, the Tupi-Guarani, in search of ?land without evil? explored the Amazonian basin and its tributaries and founded major cultural centres on the benchland (Napo culture). A picture of this mosaic of settlements, which fostered exchange in ceremonies and cult objects, deserves to be drawn in a book which gives an overall view of a very rich civilising movement as told by a selection of emblematic objects made of pottery, metal and other materials.