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Real Alto (Ecuador)

Valdivia Culture site of Real Alto

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Otavalo Maize Market in Ecuador

Otavalo Maize Market in Ecuador

Chris Feser

The archaeological site of Real Alto is a Valdivia culture site, located in southwest Guayas province, on the Chanduy Valley less than 3 kilometers in from the coast of southwestern Ecuador.

A large Early Formative village, Real Alto contains a long-used and deep midden deposit, a residential zone, and a central plaza, and was occupied between ~4400-1700 BC. The site had its heyday during the Valdivia 3 phase, between ~2800-2400 cal BC. At that point, the site was 12.4 hectares in area, with two ceremonial mounds and two plazas. Most importantly, Real Alto is one of the earliest evidence of the use of maize as a primary subsistence crop, identified by phytolith and starch grain analyses.

Discovered in the 1970s by Jorge Marcos, Real Alto has been the focus of intensive investigations by several researchers, including Donald Lathrap, Jonathon Damp, Peter Stahl, Betsy Hill, and James Zeidler.

Sources and Further Information

This glossary entry is a part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Pearsall DM, Chandler-Ezall K, and Zeidler JA. 2004. Maize in ancient Equador: results of residue analysis of stone tools from the Real Alto site. Journal of Archaeological Science 31(4):423-442.

Pearsall DM. 2002. Maize is still ancient in prehistoric Ecuador: The view from Real Alto, with comments on Staller and Thompson. Journal of Archaeological Science 29:51-55.

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