UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1900:  Pre-Columbian civilization, La Tolita culture - Ecuador, 5th century b.C.-5th century A.D. Golden sun mask. From La Tolita Island.  (Photo By DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini/Getty Images)

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Located in the circular, glass-plated, landmark building of the Casa de la Cultura is one of the country’s largest collections of Ecuadorian art, with magnificent works of pre-Hispanic and colonial religious art. The museum collection includes more than 1000 ceramic pieces dating from 12,000 BC to AD 1534, with highlights being ‘whistle bottles’ from the Chorrera culture, figures showing skull deformation practiced by the Machalilla culture, wild serpent bowls from the Jama-Coaque and ceramic representations of tzantzas (shrunken heads).

The ‘coin axes’ from the Milagro-Quevedo culture and the famous ceremonial stone chairs of the Manteños culture are also interesting. Displays in the Sala de Oro (Gold Room) include a magnificent radiating golden sun mask. Archaeological exhibits include arrowheads from Ecuador’s first nomadic hunter-gatherers, the Valdivia culture (Ecuador’s first settled agriculturalists) and the Inca.