Friday, April 30, 2010

The Valdivians

My day was devoted to La Casa Alabada. I lingered this time, reading every bit of information, listening to the audioguide, and spending an hour on a computer learning about each pre-columbian culture, their origins, economy and artistic styles. It took all day, but I was entertained every moment, and spent more time with each piece of art.

The Valdivians were not the first culture in Ecuador, but were known to be the first civilization to settle and develop an agriculture based economy. They were the first South American group to use ceramics. The archeologists who discovered the Valdivians suggested that they may have had a relationship or had contact with people living in Japan during the same period, because some of their pottery is similar, but that is not the current belief. The Valdivian society was complex and well organized and their stonework and ceramic figures are unique in Ecuador.

They worshipped women, young, old, mothers and pregnant women. Each small ceramic female figure has a characteristic hairstyle and dress, but they are faceless and most likely ritual fertility objects. Hundreds and hundreds of these small figures were found along the Ecuadorian coastal lowlands where the Valdivians lived.

I find their stonework even more interesting, quite abstract and very beautiful. There are all sorts of meanings suggested as explanations for the lines and shapes and proportions, but I believe there are all sorts of interpretations possible, and perhaps it was simply their view of aesthetics that motivated the Valdivian artists.

I spent just as much time with each major pre-columbian culture as I did with the Valdivians, and managed to spend a good five hours in the museum. I spent a long time in a dark room with a computer, learning about each cultural group, so that someone came looking for me. I am not sure if they thought I had been hurt or perhaps that I had stolen something, but I was relieved that they were watching; there were so few visitors during the time I was there, so I was alone most of the time, free to take my time and appreciate every part of the collection.

I look forward to visiting the coast and exploring the Valdivian archeological sites. That will be added to my list of what must be done before we leave!

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