6 Great Pre-Columbian Museums and Exhibitions in Quito

Pre-Columbian Art
Pre-Columbian Art | © Museo Mindalae
Rick Segreda

Cultural Activist

With a history that goes as far back as 10,000 BC, Quito has one of the richest archaeological heritages in all of South America. Here, we take a look at the best museums and archaeological exhibits that cast light on what life was like in the pre-Columbian era in Ecuador, before it was altered forever by the arrival of westerners in the 15th century. Visitors can learn about the religion, rituals, culture, gender roles, and daily life of the Paleoamericans, the first migrants to the continent; the Quitus, who settled the area now known as Quito more than 4,000 years earlier and gave the region its name; and the Caras tribe, who overtook them in 980 AD, before they themselves were conquered by the Incas.

1. Casa del Alabado Museum of Pre-Columbian Art


Ecuador, Quito, registered World Heritage by UNESCO, museo Casa del Alabado, or museum of pr?colombian arts, quipu, or counting mode
© CHARTON Franck / hemis.fr / Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Located in Quito’s world-famous historical district, in a 17th-century colonial house, the Casa del Alabado (“House of Praise”) contains around 5,000 pieces of pre-Columbian figures, pottery, tools, and weaponry, with 500 artifacts on permanent display in eight rooms. They are arranged thematically, rather than chronologically, in subjects such as cosmology, ancestral worship, ritualistic ceremony, and the indigenous relationship to nature.

2. Museum Etnohistorico de Artesanias del Ecuador Mindalae


© Mindalae
The five-story Ethnographic Mindalae Craftsman Museum features rich displays of pottery, weaving, and pre-Columbian religious and mythological iconography, created as a tribute by local craftsman to their ancestors. Mindalae is unique among the archaeological museums of Quito, in that the displays showcase the culture of the indigenous tribes of the Amazon as well as the coast. The museum is a great source of educational information about the pre-colonial history and traditions of Ecuador’s native population.

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