7 junio, 2024

Cubilán culture: what it is, characteristics, geography, chronology

What is cubilán culture?

The cubilan culture refers to an ancient civilization settled in the border shared by the provinces of Loja, Azuay and Zamora Chinchipe, in Ecuador. This set of archaeological sites have an antiquity of approximately 8,000 and 10,000 years.

Cubilán is a place of special importance because it constitutes one of the most extensive finds in Ecuador.

In total there are about 20 points, of which archaeologists have excavated 2, known as Cu-26 and Cu-27. The area as a whole comprises about 52 square kilometres.


The archaeological sites of Cubilán are distributed along the Oña River, which is a tributary of the Jubones River. This area belongs mostly to the canton of Oña, in the southeastern part of the province of Azuay.

It is located at a distance of 103 kilometers from Ciuenca, the provincial capital, and at an altitude of 2,400 meters above sea level. The climate in the canton of Oña is quite rainy, with rainfall of 654 mm. The average annual temperature in the area is 15.1 °C.

Due to the great acidity of its soils, in Cubilán it has not been possible to recover any organic material of historical importance, since they are not properly preserved in this environment. This site is of strategic importance, since it is the shortest and most easily accessible pass on the way to the Amazon basin.

The southern portion of the Andes mountain range in Ecuador has certain unique characteristics. The morphology of the soils is of the glacial type, but it has not been possible to discover if these geological formations correspond to the last glaciation that occurred.

Said data is of special importance if one takes into account that the area in which Cubilán is located did not suffer the effects of the Wisconsinian glacial phenomenon, except for the high mountain areas.

This implies that the general climate of the area is moorland and did not house many plant resources for the primitive settlers.

Pre-ceramic period

The Pre-ceramic period houses the history of the first human settlements in the Andes and its surroundings, when ceramic techniques were not yet developed.

The first settlers are generally referred to as paleo-Indians and were characterized by the development of lithic tools.

This moment in Ecuadorian history covers a range that goes from approximately 9,000 BC to 4,200 BC. Cubilán is proof that Ecuador harbors a greater density of vestiges corresponding to this period than Peru or Bolivia.


According to some remains of charcoal recovered from some of the Cubilán sites, radiocarbon ages are estimated to range between 7,110 and 7,150 BC for the Cu-26 site, and between 8,380 and 8,550 BC for Cu-27. .

archaeological finds

The area known as Cubilán was discovered in 1977 by Matilde Tenne, and includes some 23 specific sites.

The two best-known excavations correspond to the sites identified under the codes Cu-26 and Cu-27, as mentioned.

Both sites are separated by a distance of 400 meters, and studies indicate that they are also separated by about 1,300 years in time.

The use of the site corresponding to Cu-27 is believed to have been destined for a workshop. This assertion is deduced by the discovery of secondary flakes and lithic nuclei.

This site was where stone tools were made, using a great diversity of rocks as material.

The most used raw material was what could be found in the surroundings and includes minerals and stones such as jasper, agate, rhyolite, silica and flint. These primitive inhabitants must have moved in the zone in areas of up to 20 kilometers from Cu-27 to obtain the material.

The groups that lived there were of the hunter-gatherer type. Apart from the elaboration of lithic tools, it is believed that their knowledge probably also included basket making, animal skin tanning, and working on wood and bone.

From the Cu-26 site, it has been possible to extract objects that can be categorized as pedunculated and foliaceous projectile points and also various types of scrapers and perforators. It has been possible to establish that the use of this site was as a base camp.

Thus, seven sites used as stoves and apparently belonging to the same period, allow us to presume such use.

Around these hearths multiple activities were carried out, which included socialization and primitive worship.

hunting instruments

The shapes and construction of the bifacial points and knives, particularly the leafy points, show some kind of relationship between the communities that managed to cross the Ecuadorian Andes.

It is believed that there were regional adaptations in the technique, but much of that evidence could have been buried thanks to the volcanic eruptions of the Sierra Norte and Centro.

For its part, it has been established that the technique used in the manufacture of the bifacial artifacts found in Cubilán, particularly the projectile points, was pressure.

Percussion was also used for the purpose of extracting medium and long flakes, which represented the base on which they created scrapers, perforators, and cutting instruments.

Food, flora and fauna

Exploration of these sites has also been able to reveal the use of domesticated plants such as cassava (manihot esculenta), the potato (Ipomoea sweet potatoes), the pumpkin (Cucurpitas pp.) and corn (Zea mays).

Maize in particular is believed to have been introduced to the mountains of Ecuador between 8053 and 7818 BC and became very important to the inhabitants of the area.

Although bone remains could not be recovered in Cubilán due to the accelerated decomposition caused by the acidity of the soil, it can be inferred that it was the same type of game used in other important sites, such as Chobshi.

In this there were many remains of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginanus), pudu (pudu mephistopheles) and rabbit (Sylvilagus brasilensis). It is also believed that in Cubilán other animals, such as the condor or the vulture, could have been a source of food for these settlers.


1. Azuay, Oña Prefecture (2017). Retrieved from azuay.gob.ec.
2. The early man of Ecuador (2009). Recovered from ecuador-ancestral.com.
3. Luciano, Santiago Ontaneda (2002). The Original Societies of Ecuador. Quito: Libresa.
4. Usillos, Andres Gutierrez (1998). Gods, Symbols and Food in the Andes. Quito: Abya-Yala Editions.
5. Pagan-Jimenez, Jaime R. (2016). Late ninth millennium BP use of Zea mays L. at Cubilán area, highland Ecuador, revealed by ancient starches. Quaternary International.

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