What Ancient Civilization Lived in Ecuador?

Ecuador is a country located in the northwestern region of South America. It’s a richly diverse country with a long and fascinating history.

One of the most interesting aspects of Ecuador’s history is the ancient civilization that once inhabited its land. Let’s take a closer look at what ancient civilization lived in Ecuador and what we know about their way of life.

The Valdivia Culture

The Valdivia culture is believed to be one of the earliest civilizations that lived in Ecuador. They existed between 3500 BCE and 1800 BCE, making them one of the oldest known cultures in South America. The Valdivia people were skilled potters, creating intricate ceramic figurines and vessels that are still admired today.

Way of Life

The Valdivia people were primarily fishermen who lived along the coast of Ecuador. They were also skilled farmers who cultivated crops such as maize, beans, and squash. Their diet was quite varied, consisting of seafood, fruits, vegetables, and occasional meat from hunting.

Their settlements were typically small villages consisting of simple huts made from woven reeds or bamboo. They also built ceremonial structures that served as gathering places for religious rituals.

The Manteño Culture

The Manteño culture existed between 800 CE to 1532 CE in what is now modern-day Ecuador. They were primarily located along the coast and are known for their impressive architectural feats such as large stone pyramids and intricate irrigation systems.

The Manteño people were skilled farmers who grew crops such as maize, cotton, beans, and sweet potatoes. They also fished along the coast using nets made from plant fibers.

Their society was organized into a hierarchical system with a ruling class at the top. They had an extensive trade network with other cultures in South America which allowed them to acquire exotic goods such as gold and cacao.

The Inca Empire

The Inca Empire is perhaps the most well-known ancient civilization in South America, but they also had an impact on Ecuadorian history. The Inca Empire conquered much of Ecuador in the late 15th century and ruled over the region until the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century.

The Inca people were skilled farmers who developed an advanced agricultural system that allowed them to grow crops in challenging mountainous terrain. They also built impressive roads and irrigation systems that connected their vast empire.

Their society was organized into a strict hierarchy with the emperor at the top. They had a complex religion that involved worshiping many gods and goddesses with offerings such as food, textiles, and precious metals.


Ecuador has a rich history that spans thousands of years. The Valdivia culture, Manteño culture, and Inca Empire are just a few examples of the many civilizations that once inhabited this land. Through their impressive achievements in art, architecture, agriculture, and trade, they left a lasting legacy that continues to fascinate us today.