The first evidence of an existing culture in South America is found in Ecuador that stretches to
3200 B.C. It is from this region that the Valdivia culture emerges and grows further south (increasing in
human population and development). Pottery effectively replaced textiles ad the main and most popular
method to express artistic innovation. Ceramics existed in both sculptures and paintings (Donald, 2006).
Tolita island is considered the famous center where ancient coastal tribes met ceremoniously to trade and
work on their ceramics. Although it was a center for art, researchers believe that Agriculture was the
economic driver as well as hunting and exploiting the sea bed for food and precious stones. To mold
tripod pitchers, the artists used grayish sandy clay as the main material for producing various symbols
especially to symbolize deity and royalty. The highly ranked persons in society and rulers were celebrated
in this culture to a great extent.
To effectively curve the sculptures ensuring curved, fine and round edges from stone, the early
sculptors utilized spear-heads, small axes, grinders and chisels. Apart from stone, precious items meant
for the royal families were made of gold and precious stones. Among other items excavated include
whistles, figurines and grinders. The ancient artists of Tolita island used their items to depict other figures
such as cats and snakes.
The uprightly standing female figure is 7 inches toll and 4.2 inches wide. The ornaments on her
neck, ears and a crown are evidence of objects of ruler-ship or authority. The artifact, therefore, indicates
a woman of status probably of the royal family and perhaps the queen of an ancient tribe.
The beautiful facial appearance is tight (without wrinkles) to indicate that it is a young woman.
The enhanced hips and sharp breasts point to the fact that she is probably virgin and princess of the royal
family. Only such rich people could wear costly metal and precious stone such as a large necklace and ear
spools. The artist's impression of the smoothly curved but upright body enhances the fact the young lady
is probably unmarried and an image of admiration in the society.
The sculpture made in approximately 500 B.C (classic period) is probably hollow (artifacts from
the time were advanced by creating a hollow inside). The hollow interior effectively reduces the overall
weight of the entire sculpture to ease transportation and reduce the risk of delicacy and breakage. A real
working whistle was usually placed into the chest of the sculptures.
Beliefs and rituals
The female figure of the sculpture also signified a symbol of fertility used mainly during fertility
rites. Most communities living in approximately 500 B.C practiced traditional ceremonies to increase the
fertility of the land they tilled. Apart from sacrificing to gods, sculptures resembling healthy beautiful and
fertile women (like this sculpture) were commonly used to symbolize fertility. (Warren, 2006) It is vivid
that the sculpture does not have any garments on her body. The naked figure suggests that the artist
intended to communicate to their audience about the issue of fertility in the society. The sculpture is likely
to be intended for use in a ceremony.
Both arms and legs are strong and intact and do not seem to be repaired at all. The material used,
therefore, was keenly chosen and prepared to stand the taste of time. The artists focused their efforts in
producing durable items (especially those items meant for the palace). Both huge and tiny sculptures were
made completely of a single material to protect it from separating and ensure maximum existence
The priceless sculptures of royal persons such as a queen would be given as a gift to a prospective suitor
(probably a prince or hero in the society)
DeBoer, Warren R. Traces Behind the Esmeraldas Shore: Prehistory of the Santiago-Cayapas
Region, Ecuador. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2006. Print.
Proulx, Donald A. A Sourcebook of Nasca Ceramic Iconography: Reading a Culture Through Its
Art. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2006. Internet resource.