Tulipe and the Yumbos

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The discovery of Tulipe’s “stone pools” dates back some 30 years. This complex set at the foot of a “tola” mound – right along the Equa­torial line – was once a real-life planetarium, a ceremonial observatory of the night sky. The water collected in the pools reflected constella­tions above, no doubt creating a veritable link between Earth and the vault of heaven in the minds and ‘worldview’ of the Yumbo people.

For Holguer Jara, the steadfast archaeologist behind the research carried out at the Tulipe site, the Yumbos not only represent a missing link for Ecuadorian archeology. Their legacy is the missing link of Ecuador’s identity. The discovery and study of this ancient culture (400-1660 AD) unites the fragmented prehistory and geography of the terri­tory, not only through the trading routes (culuncos) carved into the rugged jungle-laden land, connec­ting the tropical lowlands and the Andean world, but also because of the intellectual and cultural connections these consummate merchant travelers provided to the entire region.

Petroglyphs carved by the Yumbo people in the area.

Yumbo symbolism lives today throughout the Tulipe area: the geometric shapes of the pools themselves as well as the ancient engravings on stone petroglyphs, found under waterfalls, on riverbanks and forest trails. The unique energy the area gives off is too fleeting for words. One thing we can say is that Tulipe seems to bring together nature’s sacredness and the sense of balance of the cosmos, as understood by the pre-Columbian mind. For this, and many other reasons, including the excellent research and curatorial work of the museum itself, the site received heritage awards including the Spanish “Reina Sofia” in 2011. (9 km down the road from the Pacto-Pachijal turnoff at km 60 of the Calacali-La Independencia highway).

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