Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Archeology Day

Along the Pacific

We woke up to mist and rain again today, thankful that we had stayed on the beach all day yesterday. It was our final day at 'Mantaraya', so it was our last opportunity to visit the archeological remains in the area. The Machalilla Park is the site of several significant ancient cultures. The Valdivians, the Chorrerra, the Machalilla, the Bahia and the Manteños all settled in the area and left their mark, and there is evidence of Inca remains as well. A local indigenous group developed their pueblo into a tourist site after archeologists excavated some graves and discovered evidence of a large community of over 5000 inhabitants of the Manteño culture (800 to 1500 AD). Agua Blanca is part of the Machalilla Park, and one enters into the community through a gate to arrive at a museum filled with Manteño artifacts. Our guide was 'Klever' and he led us through the museum and the gravesites and the whole community. He realized very soon that we were interested in birds, so he took his bird book with him and identified every bird we saw.

Ready for an Expedition

Funerary Urn

Manteño Chair

Manteño Head

Gravesite

Foundations of Buildings

There was a group of large urns nearby, filled with skeletons in the fetal position, and we were led to the site to see the urns in situ. The Manteño people were buried near their homes and the archeologists presume that there are many more urns and burial sites nearby. We walked through the agricultural area of the community, where bananas and papayas and cotton and many more crops are grown for the group of 280 individuals who live in Agua Blanca. Maya was thrilled to see baby pigs and goats and horses and took copious pictures. We saw vultures and owls and motmots and a brilliant red 'vermilion flycatcher' followed us wherever we went.

Birding Expedition


Iguana in a Tree

Motmot

Vermilion Flycatcher

Owl

Ani

We walked through the 'dry tropical forest' typical of the Machalilla park area, but we saw cloud forest a little higher where we were told we could find monkeys and anteaters and other larger mammals. The dry forest looks dead and brown, but is lush and green during the winter months when rain is more substantial. Birds were everywhere, making lots of noise and not at all timid.


Foundation stones suggesting large structures of the Manteño civilization had been partly excavated, but until there is more funding, all exploration is halted. The local community is making an effort to maintain what has already been excavated, and is hoping that one day the archeologists will return and uncover the much more extensive ruins that are suggested by what has already been found. Certainly what we saw was impressive. It has been proposed that this particular spot was one of the major ceremonial centres of the Manteño people.

We visited a volcanic 'laguna', filled with mud that is reputed to have healing properties. The pool smelled sulfuric, and we were urged to put our feet in the water (most tourists come to swim in the water, which is tepid and an eerie blue grey colour). An egret came by to visit, and we saw more motmots and our little red bird came back to watch us.

Egret

I would have loved to see more archeological collections. Unfortunately, very little is well excavated or properly displayed. There is a small museum in Salango, about six kilometers away from Puerto Lopez, but we did not have a chance to see it. Much of what was excavated in the area are in museums in other countries. There is either no money to put together the projects necessary to excavate remains, or perhaps there is not adequate interest.

Maya Lost her Tooth!

We had a flight back to Quito from Manta at 7:30 PM, and a bus was to leave Puerto Lopez at 2 and at 4. We could probably have made it to Manta on time with the 4 PM ride, but I was nervous about being late for the flight, so we rushed to catch the earlier bus, and arrived in Manta with enough time to visit the Malecon, eat yummy shrimp in a restaurant with the view of the beach and wander up and down on the sand. Manta is a modern and well kept city, thriving and energetic and certainly well worth another visit. We arrived at the airport in good time and were home and ready for bed before 9.

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