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. Museo Arqueológico Weilbauer

Museum, University

Museo Weilbauer | © Weilbauer

3. Museo Arqueológico Santiana

Museum, University

3. Museo Arqueológico Santiana

Museo Santiana | © Santiana

4. 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.

5. Parque Arqueológico y Ecológico Rumipamba

Park, Ruins

6. Museo de Sitio la Florida


Opened in 2009, the La Florida Archaeological Site Museum in the northwest corner of the city provides an opportunity to visit some burial grounds of the Quitus that were discovered only in recent years. The museum has recreated the burial chambers, dating as far back as 650 AD, complete with recreations of how the Quitus buried their dead, with figures dressed in the accoutrements – colorful ponchos adorned with Spondylus shell jewelry – that accompanied their internment. Other artifacts are only display too, such as wood carvings that speak of the rites and religion of this ancient culture.

Museo de Sitio la Florida, Antonio Costas and César Villacres +593 02 380 3043

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