Taking up the lion’s share of this landmark oval building is the nation’s premier museum, the Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador, which houses an incomparable collection of pre-Columbian ceramics and gold artefacts, as well as colonial, republican and contemporary art.

The first hall off the central lobby is the huge Sala de Arqueología, where you’ll find ceramic collections grouped according to the culture that produced them. Among the oldest pieces, near the entrance, are the simple female figurines crafted by the Valdivia culture (3500–1500 BC) – the first group in the Ecuador area to abandon a nomadic existence and form permanent settlements – which show different stages of female development, such as puberty, pregnancy and motherhood, in a touching, naturalistic style. Close by are many fine examples of Chorrera ceramics (900–300 BC), most famously the whistle-bottles in the form of various creatures, which mimic animal noises when water is poured into them.

Perhaps the most striking pieces in this room are the large, seated humans known as the Gigantes de Bahía, the work of the Bahía culture (500 BC to 650 AD), which range from 50–100cm in height and show men and women sitting with their legs crossed or outstretched, wearing many fine ornaments and elaborate headdresses. Also eye-catching are the pots and figurines of the northern coast’s La Tolita culture (600 BC to 400 AD), comprising fantastical images including fanged felines with long, unfurling tongues, or realistic representations of decapitated “trophy heads”.

Among the few non-ceramic works in the room are the stone seats supported by human figures on their hands and knees; these are the work of the Manteño-Huancavilca culture (500–1532 AD) and were probably thrones high-ranking authorities used during religious ceremonies.

 

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Ecuador features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Podcast: Galápagos – the human story

Podcast: Galápagos – the human story

Galápagos. What do you picture when you hear those four syllables? Chances are it’s wildlife, from giant tortoises and marine iguanas to blue-footed boobies.…

13 Aug 2018 • Rough Guides Editors volume_up Podcast
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
19 places for a digital detox

19 places for a digital detox

Find peace at Buddhist monastery, Nepal Trim out the religious and/or mystical connotations and Buddhism boils down to something quite simple – brain trai…

14 Nov 2014 • Neil McQuillian camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs