Scientific Research & Community Benefits
By booking an Archaeology Vacation, you are doing more than going on vacation. You are making a substantial contribution to a scientific research program, and answering important questions about the little-understood pre-contact history of the Ecuador coast.
You are also making an important contribution to the modern community of Agua Blanca; strengthening and improving the social and economic framework of the community. You can learn more about the community benefits program here
Archaeology Research Program
Agua Blanca, the largest of the Manteño settlements of south Manabí, is located in the Buenavista River valley approximately 8km from the sea, and has been confirmed through archaeological research as the paramount site of the Salangome chiefdom. Over an area of approximately 4 sq.km, archaeologists have documented more than 600 earth platforms and wall foundations of stone.
The nucleus of Agua Blanca is understood to feature a complex of stone enclosures with walls of stone standing 1-2 metres in height. Relationships are presumed to exist between the features at Agua Blanca and other cultural features on modified hilltops to the north. Associations with astronomical/solar alignments are also presumed to exist.
There is strong circumstantial evidence for state-level organization as well as trading relationships, and religious activities. Pre-Manteño occupations at Agua Blanca are also indicated, but still have to be documented in detail.
A long history of archaeological research in southern Manabi, including the important research by Dr. Colin McEwan at Agua Blanca, has built a strong foundation of results that permits further work to be conducted.
This archaeology project puts forth a program of archaeological research to understand the Manteño occupation of Agua Blanca at the local, the regional (the Manteños del Norte) and at the supra-regional levels.
We are approaching this work with a desire to understand the architecture of Agua Blanca on its own terms. Our goal is to develop an understanding of Manteño concepts concerning the House and the social and symbolic significance of House architecture. We hope to capture something of the fuller value that Houses had for their builders and occupants. We also wish to examine the construction of spaces lying under and around the houses in order to understand the role and placement of rituals and offerings, including human burials, in Manteño architecture and social structure as a whole.
Building upon the archaeology that was done before, we intended that this archaeology project be one of the most detailed and thorough archaeological investigations ever conducted in Ecuador, and that it rank in importance at the continental level. Specifically, its results will lead to a much improved understanding of the many facets of Manteño society, of the roles played by Manteño groups along the west coast of South America, and of their likely influence as far north as west Central America.
This is one of the most comprehensive archaeology projects ever proposed in Ecuador (and likely South America).
All of the work is done to professional archaeological standards. The excavations at Agua Blanca are conducted under the direction of two professional archaeologists with more than 60 combined years of field experience.
How will you contribute?
As an important member of the ongoing archaeological investigations, you will be excavating in very specific locales within the site to answer very specific research questions. You will be doing the actual excavation, finding the artifacts and uncovering the answers to those questions as part of our team. And of course, it is through your participation that we are able to fund the excavation of this site. We do not receive any funding from governments or universities to do this work. This project is managed by the community of Agua Blanca - not by a university, museum or government.
• We will be excavating within structures of various sizes to understand what were the purposes of the structures. Did they have a ceremonial function; an administrative function; or were they simply domestic dwellings?
• We will be excavating in the plazas and spaces between the structures to understand how public spaces were used? Were they used as markets, meeting places; ceremonial places; by the rich; by the poor?
• We will be analyzing the artifacts recovered to understand the material culture of this time period. Who made them? How were they used? Were this common or exotic artifacts? Are they local or were they imported from distant regions? How were they obtained?
There are many unanswered questions about this time period in Ecuador's history and some of the answers lay in the ground at Agua Blanca.
You can download and read our archaeology reports below. They are written in Spanish and English.