The Mother Civilization of the Americas
Lecture by Alexander Hirtz, Shanghai, 2010.
This lecture I presented in the World EXPO Shanghai 2010 and refers to a great gap in history, a gap that most archaeologists and anthropologists are uncomfortable discussing.
I’m talking about the mysterious appearance of advanced civilizations in the Americas—civilizations like the Olmec of Mexico and the Chavin of Peru.
Seemingly out of nowhere, these civilization show up bearing cultural advancements that must have taken thousands of years to develop. Moreover, these civilizations are remarkably similar.
However, we are led to believe by modern science that they did not share a common origin. The going story is that they simply popped up, and we should just accept that.
I am a scientist. One of the things I learned very early in my scientific education—maybe when I was about 3 or 4 years old—is that you can’t get something out of nothing. I’m sure you all know that, too. So, I’m going to talk today about where these mysterious cultures, and others like them, could have come from.
I was born and raised in Quito, a city of monumental importance in the history of Latin America. Since my youth, I have been exposed to traditions and knowledge handed down from generations going back thousands of years.
My search for knowledge and answers to the mysteries of the pre-Hispanic cultures was instilled in me by my father, who spent decades living with the indigenous cultures and collecting their traditional artwork. I’ve followed his footsteps and spent a great deal of time and resources researching the cultures, their symbols, and their knowledge.
In honor of my father’s work, I have established and now direct the Charles Hirtz Foundation—a non-profit organization whose purpose is to share with the world the symbolic knowledge of the wise teachers who civilized Latin America thousands of years ago.
Today, I am going to share with you the Valdivia culture: the culture that brought ancient knowledge—arguably, civilization—to the Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayans, Chavin, Inca… virtually every major civilization of the tropical Americas before the Spanish conquest.
The Valdivians communicate to us today across such a vast expanse of time through their wonderfully rich and advanced symbology. It is these symbols of theirs that I will dedicate most of the time to discussing. Before we take a look at the meaning of the symbols of the Valdivia culture, I’ll give a brief overview of their history as we know it.
The Valdivians were a pre-Columbian culture from coastal Ecuador, who distinguished themselves for their sophistication between 6,400 and 3,500 years ago, and outranked any other culture in America of that period. In this timetable, which apparently relates to the manufacture of fired ceramics, we can see that Valdivia predates by far the first culture in Mexico, the Olmec, by more than 1500 years and the Chavin, the first culture in Peru by 2000 years.
Their first roots are around 17,000 years ago, at the end of the last Pleistocene ice age, when the first humans migrated across the Bering Strait.
Descendants of the migration gradually populated America, a continent that was then geographically quite different from that of the present day.
Of course their diet was also quite different.
Before the ice melted at the end of the ice age, water levels of oceans were about 120 meters lower than they are now, and a great portion of the continental platform was above sea level.
The ancient shorelines were sometimes several kilometers away from the present ones; hence, the worldwide continental surface was at least a million square kilometers larger. For example, one could walk from Korea to Japan.
At the equator, the average temperature was about 5 degrees Celsius cooler, and the permafrost line started about 1,000 meters lower than the present one—at about 3,600 meters above sea level.
The Amazon Basin was mainly savannas and desert. During the ice age rainfall was 50% less than today.
Several dozen species of large mammals inhabited those ecosystems, including ones related to the mastodon, megadont, giant sloth, paleo-llama and Andean horse.
Most likely, coastal human settlements of that era are now submerged and buried under sandbars and coral reefs. The sea level did not stabilize, allowing the formation of present tidal and estuarine ecosystems, until about 7,000 years ago.
When the human migration from the Bering Strait reached Panama around 12,000 years ago, some groups followed the Pacific coast south to Patagonia, while others went east along the Atlantic coastline and settled at the Magdalena, Orinoco and Amazon deltas.
The temperate climate along the basins of these rivers favored the settlers, who actively started to develop agriculture. At that time, there were almost no diseases or pests in America, so there was explosive population growth of these early settlers.
With the post-glacial climate changes, the vegetation of the Amazon Basin evolved into dense rain forests.
Many of the larger mammals found the new ecosystem intolerable.
It probably caused the extinction of species such as the mastodon, the Andean horse and a very large number of plants.
Heavy rainfall inundated the agricultural fields, forcing Amazon basin cultures to migrate to the mountains and the drier coastal plateau of the Pacific. The first migration from the Amazon to the equatorial Pacific could date back as early as 10,000 years ago—the Las Vegas phase in coastal Ecuador—due to evidence of the cultivation of bottle gourd trees, calabashes, maize and probably manioc.
Most of these early Amazon settlements are now covered by lacustrine deposits caused by rapid erosion due to the dramatic climate change and rainfall in the Andean mountains, spanning several thousand seasons. The present clay cover over ancient settlements makes archaeological discovery by a difficult task.
Sometime around 5,500 BP, a second wave of immigrants arrived at the equatorial Pacific coast, where they encountered fisherman of the post-Vegas or Achallán and San Pedro phases, who already made used of crude, fired clay pots and horticultural gardens.
Jumping ahead now—In 1956, the Ecuadorian archeologist Emilio Estrada discovered the first remains of this culture in the fisherman village named Valdivia, hence the name for the culture. Betty Meggers and Clifford Evans of the Smithsonian Institution assisted with the excavations. They concluded that the only culture in the world that had similar knowledge in ceramics was the Jomon in Japan; therefore, the Valdivians must have originated from Japan. This conclusion was based on close similarities found between the two cultures’ ceramic decorations. To this day, the Smithsonian Institution insists on the Jomon origin of the Valdivia culture. I personally visited several collections of the various phases of the Jomon culture in Japan and noted great time gaps in the evolution of the designs, sometimes up to thousand years in sophistication both ways.
I also have seen similar ceramics from cultures in China, Persia or from Old Europe dating the same periods.
Apart from the Smithsonian, most current archeologists have rejected the theory of the Valdivian’s Japanese origin. It is more likely that they came from the Amazon, from where they introduced to the mountain-dwellers the knowledge of more advanced agriculture. They likely brought along seeds of beans, coca, tobacco, cacao, cannas and other strains of maize, as well as plants with fibers for their textiles, like palm fiber, and pita, a bromeliad of the pineapple family.
They probably also brought along rubber, manioc, vanilla, pineapples, batate, sweet potato, yam and other tropical plants originally found in the Amazon. Before this Amazonian culture arrived at the coast, though, locals had domesticated tomatoes, chili, paprika, cotton and peanuts.
From the coexistence of these two quite different cultures originated the Valdivians, who, for over 3,000 years of civilization, came to control trade along the Pacific coast and trade routes over the cordilleras to Peru and back to the Amazon. Ever since then, the Ecuadorian cultures became on the American Pacific the equivalent of the Phoenicians of the Mediterranean. The benign climate, abundant food supplies and the absence of outside enemies and diseases enabled the Valdivians to stabilize and prosper without interference for three millennia.
There is no archaeologic evidence of any wars or intrusions from other tribes during these 3000 years, a quite different history than most other cultures and civilizations in other parts of the world. Being active merchants, the Valdivians were masters of deep-sea navigation, which they adopted from the earlier established fisherman who had already known these techniques for several thousand years. There is substantial evidence that the Valdivians traded with Central America and Southern Mexico via the Galapagos Islands. On land, their trade empire ranged from Chile to Northern Ecuador, from the coast into the deep reaches of the Amazon Jungle.
They traded their maritime goods, such as Spondylus and conches, for non-perishable goods like sodalite and turquoise. The Spondylus shell often found as deep as 50 meters in the ocean and most abundant in equatorial waters, was introduced to other cultures by the Valdivians. The Spondylus shell was the most sought after trade item in America, because the shell was a sacred item considered the food of the gods and was a talisman and payment to the gods in all their festivities and ceremonies. This was the case in all the American continent until the arrival of the Spaniards in the XV century.
Direct evidence of this inland trade is difficult to trace, because the main routes and settlements in the valleys of the Andes have been covered several times in the last millennia by eruptions of the more than 80 active volcanoes in northern Ecuador and southern Colombia. For example, villages in the highlands west of Quito were covered twice by a one-meter thick ash flow from the nearby Pululahua volcano in 3500 BP and 2450 BP.
Archeologists have divided the cultural development during these three millennia into eight phases. During the first seven cultural phases, between 5,500 BP and 3,700 BP, the Valdivians lived near their cultural and religious centers and kept their villages to the coastal plateau of present day Ecuador. They didn’t attempt to indoctrinate the neighboring, more primitive, tribes.
Phase one had already complex ceramic pot ware, but the figurines were very stylized and carved in stone. The Valdivians had already stable villages and ceremonial centers.
Some representations are incredibly figurative considering the simplicity of the sculpture.
Phase Two started to carve intricate patterns to represent the human figure, but still carved in stone. Considering that the Valdivia had advanced ceramic techniques for their pots and plates, I think they considered it a sacrilege to use raw clay and fire to manufacture human representations, because stones were the skeletons of Mother Earth.
In Phase 3 we find the first figurines made of fired clay. Almost always the figurines represented a female, probably a representation of the primordial goddess, but in a cosmology based on duality, occasionally male figurines are found as well.
In Phase 5 the faces depict distinct eyebrows.
In Phase 6 the eyebrows distance themselves from the eye.
In Phase 7 the eyebrows are like a second eye, apparently the first stage of transformation to their alter ego, the owl, to travel as a spirit to the stars and the Milky Way.
In the last hundred years of the Valdivias, their way of life changed drastically and I name this short phase as the Second Period, or the eighth and final phase (3,700 BP – 3,500 BP). During this time the Valdivians established a large number of small satellite villages near the traditional ceremonial centers, but also establish ceremonial sites and trading portals in various parts of Ecuador and apparently in Colombia and Central America.
Figurines in southern Ecuador have a secular appearance, where the figurines are dressed, facial paint and turbans are common.
During the same period, the pottery is similar to the south, but the figurines are quite different and bizarre. Most figures are completely distorted, the heads do not look human, more like owls, and skull deformation is common.
Around 3500 BP the Valdivian civilization “vanishes”, but at the same time all the great inventions and customs of the Valdivians appear fully developed in Mesoamerica and in the highlands of Peru. We’ll look at this deeper in my second part of today’s lecture.
The Valdivian civilization distinguished itself in America as being among the first dedicated to agriculture with stable villages and ceremonial centers involving several hundred families over three millennia, and for establishing trade routes from Mesoamerica to Chile. The Valdivians were the first to discover or make use of the following:
Ceramics in quality equal to the finest in other continents of the same epoch and 1,500 years earlier than in Mesoamerica or Peru (starting with Valdivian I),
Fired clay figurines
Material for beads and other ornamentation, like soapstone, green volcanic lava, mother of pearl, turquoise, ceramic, chalcedony and spondylus
Highly polished large ceremonial stone axes maybe used in human blood rites
Soft sand stone axes for large quantity ‘payments’ (Second Period)
Ceremonial cups made of soapstone and andesite, possibly used as astronomic mirrors (Second Period) or to pour foam chocolate, as they look similar to the ones used by the Mayas and Aztecs for that purpose in later times.
Spoons made out of shell or fired clay. Spoons were not used thereafter in America, with very few exceptions. Food was taken with the hands.
Pot-lids with a central handle. Pot lids are an obvious tool to prevent dirt and insects to enter the food and liquids, but vegetable covers were used traditionally in the rest of America’s prehistory.
Graters of fired clay to grind corn, manioc and many other tubers.
Ear-spools, rattles, bells, and ocarinas of fired clay (Valdivian VII and Second Period)
Lime kept in miniature clay pots to activate coca and certain hallucinogenic drugs (since Valdivian I)
Stone and clay miniature mortars which served at the same time to snuff the ground hallucinogenic seeds. (since Valdivian III)
Spondylus-shell funeral masks, which were placed on the face of children. (Since Valdivian II)
Ceremonial ceramic masks (Second Period)
Axe shaped stone “gongs” or bells (Second Period).
Some traditional doctrines hold that sound was the first of all things to be created, and music represents an intermediate zone between the material world ant the realm of the ‘pure will’. The only large musical instrument that survived time was the large stone-gong, which was probably suspended at the entrance of the temples like the bells in the Shinto shrines. These stone gongs were shaped like very large ceremonial axes and made out of very hard, flawless volcanic rocks, like basalt, to obtain optimal purity in sound. The sound of a bell is a symbol of creative power and, when suspended, it partakes of the mystic significance of all objects, which are suspended between heaven and earth. Bells and gongs were mainly religious implements for summoning both worshipers and supernatural beings. The shape of the gong, very much like that of a ceremonial axe, strengthens the possibility for human blood sacrifices. In China, the striking of the bell or gong is associated with the striking of the drum and relates to the thunderbolt. The music derived from both bells and gongs are heavenly and universally have associations with the power of exorcism and purification.
This figurine evidences the use of the pan flute and would be the earliest representation of a musician in America
The earliest representation of a Stool of Power dating 5000 years of age. The animal represented is a turtle, the intermediary of the shaman between the upper world of the gods and the lower world of the ancestors.
First representation of the cacao or chocolate fruit. This is clear proving that the Valdivia introduced the chocolate to the Olmec civilization in Mexico.
Stone “cosmograms” and codices (Second Period). I will talk further about the importance and meaning of these important artifacts shortly.
Skull deformation (Second Period) shown in these figurines suggest that the Valdivias were the first using this strange custom.
Advanced techniques in aquaculture, the construction of dams, water channels & complex water reservoirs. The whole religion of the Valdivia seems to be based on a cult for water, which may be explained with the new climatic phenomenon today known as “El Niño”, which first appeared 7000 years ago. The “El Niño” phenomena may cause cyclic climatic catastrophes, either with too much rain or prolonged draughts.
It could be argued that the Valdivians were the mother culture of the Americas. There is much evidence to support that their symbolic, pictographic art may have been a proto-writing system. These symbols used systematically by the Valdivians developed into a pictographic writing system, as is evidenced by the stone plates and ceramic bowls of the Final Valdivian Phase.
Many of their symbols relate to astronomy—a science in which they were unarguably masters. To establish an agricultural calendar in the “chaotic equatorial climate” with no evident seasons, shamans were forced to find order and predict the future from the stars. As a consequence, they developed a cosmology based on the stars, the Milky Way, the path of the sun and the moon, the related solstices and the equinoxes, and the relative position of Venus.
The patterns of the heavenly bodies could be outlined in graphic representations, which turned out to be perfectly symmetrical only at the equator. I will discuss this graph later in this lecture.
Their profound astronomic knowledge induced them to establish an astronomic temple at the equatorial line, about 200 km north of their traditional settlements. At this sanctuary, hundreds of ceramic ceremonial vessels have been found, along with a library of thousands of cosmograms carved on flat stone plates. These and other manifestations of the Valdivians’ cosmology can now only be found in the few surviving fragmented remains.
Because much of the material I will share with you today deals with symbolic concepts, I’ll begin by sharing some of the most basic principles of Latin American symbology with you.
First of all, the Valdivians incorporated various crosses into their symbology, each representing different concepts. In many cases, the crosses were combined to represent more complex concepts, but before we understand the complex symbols, we must first understand the basics. Generally speaking, there are two categories of crosses: the male and the female cross.
The male cross, most recognizable as the symbol of the Christian religion, has the form of a lower-case “t.” In Andean tradition, this symbol is used to refer to the four points of the compass—north, south, east and west. Each point also corresponds with one of the four major elements—earth, air, fire, and water.
The female cross is similar in design to the male cross, but it is offset by 45 degrees. That is to say, it has the form of a lower-case “x.” This cross has several representations and meanings in Andean tradition, first of which is the solsticial cross.
The solsticial cross is an x-shape that represents the movement of the sun during one year. As we know, during summer months, the sun moves to the northern hemisphere, reaching the northernmost point around June 21st and this northern limit is known today as the Tropic of Cancer. Likewise, during the winter months, it moves into the southern hemisphere, reaching its southernmost point around December 21st and this southern most limit is known as the Tropic of Capricorn.
These days are known respectively as the summer and winter solstices. They are longest days of the year in each hemisphere. Because the Valdivians were obsessed with cosmology, these days were extremely important to them. As such, the concept of the solar movement was recorded in the form of the solsticial cross.
Another female cross used by the Valdivians, and later pre-Colombian American cultures, is the Milky Way cross. Similar the solsticial cross, the Milky Way cross is a symbolic representation of the movement of the Milky Way across the sky. Although it is hard to see now with the increase of light pollution in the night sky, the light band of the Milky Way—our galaxy—can be seen on a clear, moonless night. This band changes in position in the sky every 24 hours, due to the wobbling of the earth’s orbit, which is slightly irregular. The change of position, when measured at the extremes, creates an “x” shape when the extremes are visually layered on top of each other. Hence the female Milky Way cross.
If we layer the two female crosses and links the points, one obtains an eight- pointed star, a representation found often in pre-colonial Andean art.
This eight-pointed star was recently used by the City of Quito as their millenary symbol where the hummingbird reaches the stars.
The male and female crosses may also be layered upon each other, forming also an 8-pointed star. This symbol is frequently found in Valdivian art, and it represents the foundation of the cosmology with which they were so obsessed. Shortly, I will show some examples of this symbol, and the crosses with which it is built, but first I require to review all other related symbolic aspects.
Another key player in the cosmology of the Valdivians was the planet Venus. Considering that Venus was—is—the third brightest object in the sky, the Valdivians of course had a special place for it in their cosmology.
It is most frequently represented as four arrows, pointing either inwards or outwards from a centre point that represents the “world of here.” The role of Venus, as depicted by the arrows, was to either attack or defend the world axis, depending on the direction of the arrows.
The Valdivians believed that there were three planes of existence. The world we live in—the tangible, material world—is known as the “world of here.” There also exists the underworld, or the “world of below,” which is thought of as being the massive ocean, always inundated with water, and the source of all life. Finally, there is the “world of above,” which may be thought of as the heavens, or the land of the gods.
The “world of here” is a two dimensional square. Earth was considered symbolically as the limits of existence measured by the yearly paths of the sun between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
Connecting these three worlds is the “tree of life,” otherwise known as the “world axis.” It is this symbolic axis that the shaman ascends or descends during his religious trances. Because this axis is the foundation for their cosmology, it figures in heavily among the Valdivian symbology.
In addition to the astronomic concepts the Valdivians used in their symbols, they also used some design concepts that have been common to other developing civilizations. On example is the concept of anatropism. An anatropic design is one that is the same when viewed upside-down or right side up. It can be taken to mean, “as above, so below.” This concept was not only in the Americas; the Egyptians also used it when they designed the layout of the pyramids at Giza to align to the starts in the belt of Orion.
One final symbolic concept I want to mention before we take a look at specific art examples is the concept of anthropomorphism. Since the dawn of mankind, shamans have associated themselves with animal forms and animal spirits. The Valdivians, mainly female shamans, and later other pre-Columbian cultures, very frequently used symbols of shamanic transformation into animal spirits like the Jaguar, the Owl, or the Serpent. Most simply put, humanization of animal forms in art is described as being anthropomorphic.
Here some examples of the shaman transformed into an owl, the symbol of the eye looking up to the stars. The owl would be the symbolic representation of the astronomer.
Two fantastic representations of the shaman looking into the six directions of space: the four cardinal directions of the world of here, the world of above and the world of below.
The representation of the transformation of the shaman to a jaguar. The jaguar also symbolizes the moon, blood and rain.
Of particular interest is the concept of Oneness and Androgyny—the duality of Male and Female integrated into one.
Very important is the integration of the sun, with its rays symbolized by serpents and the moon, symbolized by the face of the jaguar.
This integration becomes the civilizing god known today as Wira Cocha, who is frequently recorded in Chavin, the earliest Peruvian civilization which probably was founded by the Valdivians 3500 years ago in the Andean highlands. Thereafter legends state that the god Wira Cocha founded the city of Tihuanaco in Bolivia 2200 years ago and is represented at the portal of Tihuanaco.
The symbol of the Central Bank of Ecuador is a gold representation of Wira Cocha which was found in an excavation in southern Ecuador. Wira Cocha is the Quechua name for the primordial elements Water & Fire.
Another important symbol is duality represented in this case as Siamese. In pre-colonial times duality was more complex and was envisioned as a double duality. Every male had a female aspect, as well as a female had male aspects. There was no pure darkness but always with some light, or light always accompanied by shadows.
The Valdivians considered time as a spiral and major cycles ended with the precession of the equinoxes every few thousand years. This concept was inherited by later civilizations in America. The Aztecs and Mayas were living the 5th cycle as well as the Incas. The Valdivians were probably living the 3nd cycle, the foundation of Tihuanaco 3200 years ago started the 4rd cycle, the fourth cycle started the year 650 and ended with the arrival of the Spanish in 1522, where almost 99% of the Indian population died of innumerable diseases brought over from Europe. Now we are in the 6th cycle where the Maya calendar predicts its end in the year 2012.
The universe was represented in three dimensions as a sphere and in two dimensions as a circle. In Valdivia iconography, perfection is represented by curved lines, while imperfection on earth was represented by straight and angular lines.
Here a fantastic representation of a human figure reminiscent of Da Vinci.
The position of the figure represents the solsticial cross and the quatripartition of terrestrial land highlighted by four opposing triangles.
The Valdivians created intricate and complex ceramic bowls, many of which were designed with the fundamental symbols the Valdivians used to record their history.
Most symbols on the bowls are geometric patters, where some maybe symbolize the serpent and others the jaguar. At the final phase, they are most complex in their cosmology. These ceramics are frequently ornamented water symbols. The redundancy of the water symbols appear to be so fundamental to the Valdivian cosmology that the culture could even be considered a “Water Cult,” which later became the pillars of other Amerindian religions. This is particularly apparent on the Pacific coast of Peru, which, although being among the most desolate and driest deserts in the world, was nonetheless populated by millions of people in ancient times.
You may be noticing a pattern in the basic symbols of the Valdivians. Many involve four points. For example, the male and female crosses have four points each, just as there are four arrows depicting Venus. The Valdivians realized that the clockwork-like workings of the universe were, most generally, tied with the number four.
There are four cardinal directions, there are four solar extremes (the solstices and equinoxes), there are four points of the Milky May cross—the list goes on. As such, the Valdivians considered space and time to be divided into four parts, otherwise known as the quadripartition of space-time.
So, when we see in the South- and Mesoamerican art symmetrical groupings into quarters, it often is a representation of this concept born with the Valdivians.
The most symbolically complex of the ceramics are the composite silhouetted bowls. When viewed from the top, side or bottom, the bowls reveal many astronomic symbols that are similar in all them.
When viewed laterally, one can clearly distinguish two silhouetted bowls, which are the synthesis and evolution replicating the double gourd. This is very similar to the Chinese emblem of Li T’ieh-kuai, the second of the Eight Immortals, the hour-glass, twin drums, or St. Andrew’s cross. Most basically represented like the letter “x,” this is the symbol of the link between the two worlds—the upper and the lower—and of the principle of inversion, or opposition, which regulates the ordered pattern of cosmic events; that is, night and day, life and death, sorrow and joy, etc. Li T’ieh-kuai was, in effect, a mythic figure whose essential characteristic was the ability to leave his body and visit heaven—bridging the gap between the two worlds I’ve just mentioned.
The lower bowl is larger than the upper bowl, and the square outline symbolizing the four directions of earth are perpendicular to the square outline of the upper bowl.
The 8 protruding points, when seen from above, represent the eight-pointed star, an astronomic symbol found later as the fundamental pillar of the Mesoamerican calendars.
The composite bowls basically represent the three worlds: the top part corresponds to the world of above, the bottom part corresponds to the world of below, and the neck between the two represents the world of “here.
The graphics and ornamentation on the bottom bowl correspond to symbols pertaining to the world below, Mother Earth, the waters and the moon. It is this portion of the bowl that holds the live-giving food and drink of the gods.
When viewed from top, one observes the ‘hollow center’, corresponding, to space- and timelessness, or ‘mystic nothingness’, which, in oriental thought, is signified by the hole in the Chinese disk of jade called Pi, representing heaven.
The junction in the middle—the lid—has a central handle symbolizing the central tree of life, or the world axis, which connects the three worlds. These handles are usually represented by various abstract geometric shapes, but sometimes by sculptures of the shaman himself, who was capable of ascending or descending to the other worlds.
When viewed from the bottom, the round bowl often has a square outline, which represents the celestial Earth, the four cardinal points, the Four Winds and the Four Elements.
The top view of the composite silhouetted bowls again has a symbolic interpretation of its own. The upper bowl has a square outline with a protrusion at each of the four corners. In most cases the protrusions are faces, which symbolize the almost fully transformed state of the shaman into an owl during the hallucinogenic trance to “soar like a cloud” up to the heavens. Each face is located at the corners of the square, symbolizing the end points of the solsticial cross. The solsticial cross represents the four extreme points of the sun during the summer and winter solstices.
When one views the double bowl from the top or the bottom, the rounded shape has at the borders a square outline. Thus, the circular shape of the bowl stands for limitlessness while the squared appearance of corners stands for limitation.
The importance given to the double gourd by the Chinese implies a remarkable similarity to that of the Valdivians, considering that the function of these Valdivian bowls was most likely to hold brews taken from Mother Earth for the consumption of the shaman to help his spirit soar up to the Milky Way.
More examples of the composite silhouetted bowls
The overlapping of the male cross of the four cardinal directions, with the female solsticial cross, the celestial square earth in two positions, which all together form the eight-pointed star, constitute the planetarium of the Valdivia astronomers and used thereafter in all of Meso-America.
The most sophisticated calendar ever put together was the Aztec Calendar, where we can clearly see the pillars of the Valdivia planetarium.
The symbols used are only symmetrical at the equator and could have never been conceived by astronomers living far away from the equator.
Therefore the first calendars were born by the Valdivians. The inside holds a non corporeal shaman, which is surrounded by the stylized wings of an owl, which symbolizes the shaman to be soaring like a cloud up to the heavens.
Now I will describe the cosmograms which involve a number of circular incisions. The most basic cosmogram represents a rectangle surrounded by a dotted band. This type of cosmogram can be thought of as the “rectangular earth” surrounded by “Oceanus,” or the rectangular “center” or “cosmic mountain-temple” surrounded by water-channels in an attempt, like the Aztecs, to create an island of consciousness. The Aztec’s word for this was the tonal, also meaning “sun” and “light,” in the midst of the black waters of the unconsciousness, the nahual, the unseen spirit world. The Aztec islands of consciousness were created by building physical islands surrounded by water canals.
Raised ground surrounded by water was used in agriculture throughout America, from Mexico to Ecuador to Tiahuanaco and so on. The Valdivians already developed this extraordinary technique in large scale before it spread throughout the rest of the Americas.
A pictogram in the Codex Borbon showing the land surrounded by the ocean, which reaches the sky. Notice the similarity of this complex drawing with the simplified version of the Valdivian cosmogram.
The diagonal water-channels depicted on these particular cosmograms equate to the World of Above, with the diagonal positions on the plate representing the Milky Way during dusk or dawn of each solstice.
These cosmograms show the Milky Way cross.
A larger version of the same symbolic concept is seen in the layout of the village of Real Alto, where the entrances to their houses were located on the same position of the Milky Way cross, as well as the Milky Way cross.
Cosmogram depicting one branch of the more flat-laying diagonal of the solsticial cross.
Cosmograms showing the solsticial cross.
The cuatripartition of space by the solsticial cross can be found again how the Inca Empire was divided into four territories. The map was drawn by the Inca Huaman Poma in 1584. The same symbol may be found in the code of arms of the Aztecs for the city of Tenotchtitlan in the lake of Texco in Mexico.
These cosmograms show several diagonal water channels used in aquaculture combined with agriculture. This practice has been used in Ecuador for at least 6000 years, as seen on this crosscut of an ancient agricultural field, where volcanic ash of that age covered such an area. This practice is still being used in the high Andes of Peru, where temperatures at night might fall several degrees below freezing. The additional use of the water channels for irrigation and besides for growing fish, frogs and water-plants, is the solar energy which will warm the water enough to keep the surrounding plants and tubers from freezing.
Another cosmograms depicting a different style of irrigation in a diamond pattern. A drawing by the Inca Guaman Poma in 1584 demonstrates that this method was still in practice in Inca times.
Several cosmograms show serpents in opposing positions threatening or protecting the Milky Way in the world of above or the water channels in the world of here.
Some more examples of Venus in its four positions protecting or attacking the center. This symbol is known in Europe as the Four Archers.
A few examples of more complex cosmograms often involving the serpent.
The archetypes on the cosmograms are complemented with a series of circular incisions, which possibly to reflect a form of numerology; that is to say, measurements or notations, maybe to track the heavenly bodies. In other words, they could have acted as a form of calendar. Peruvian scholars have studied these circular patterns in other pre-colonial objects and consider these to be mathematical notations.
The numbers found of circular incisions in each sector in a cosmogram are found repeatedly as sacred numbers in the astronomy of ancient Mexico. Some of these numbers are the 6, 7, 13, 19, 23 and 74. This suggests that these cosmograms are calendaric notations or tracking of the planets.
Comparing certain Valdivian cosmograms with the “primitive” Mesoamerican calendar, tonalpohualli—which, by the way, was used until quite recently—it becomes apparent that this divinatory calendar might have originated with the Valdivians. The pictogram represents the calendar enclosed by a band with circular incisions. Inside there are seated the two primordial gods Cipactonal and Oxomocoque. By throwing seeds of corn in the air, the result is the oracle they were seeking.
Around 3700 years ago, the Valdivians strangely began to panic. They moved away form their centrally located areas and expanded their empire during 3700 to 3500 years BP – the final, terminal phase. During this period, the Valdivians obsessively began to sacrifice their population. We know this because the period saw a drastic increase in the use of sacrificial objects like axes and ceremonial cups. Also, they conquered surrounding areas and imposed their cosmology upon them. Why did the Valdivians begin acting so strangely, and then disappear a short 200 years later?
As we know, the Valdivians were obsessed with cosmic processes. Major astronomic events, which of course happened in the “world of above,” were reflected in the “world of here,” and vice versa. When such major events transpired in the heavens, the Valdivians followed suit accordingly here on Earth. One such major celestial event—the precession of the equinoxes—may have been the ultimate cause of the Valdivians’ odd behavior in the Terminal Phase. The precession of the equinoxes can be thought of as a massive cosmic age coming to an end. The stars above periodically rotate over vast amounts of time, and when this marked event occurs, the very balance of life between the worlds of above and below is rattled. The celestial rotation could have meant a closure of the gate to the land of the dead, and it would have marked a prophesized end on an era for the Valdivians—very much as it did in the years 650 and 1522 in the Andean prehistory. It is noteworthy that the Mayans shared a similar fate, which we suspect is as a result of the end of their 5th age—another example of the precession of the equinoxes.
The prophecy was in fact fulfilled with the eruption of the Pululahua Volcano 3,500 years ago—the very end of the Valdivian Terminal Phase. The volcano covered the central coast of Ecuador in a layer of ashes several centimeters thick. The Valdivians tried for over thirty years to incorporate the sterile ash into their once fertile soil, but agricultural production for the probably 3 million inhabitants who lived in the region at the time was impossible to keep up. Therefore, the Valdivian’s prophecy of the end of an age was fulfilled, and they were forced to migrate away from Ecuador.
So, the Valdivians disappeared at the precession of the equinoxes that occurred around 3,500 years ago, but then their advancements mysteriously appear in other parts of the Americas. These advancements take thousands of years to develop, so it only stands to reason that they must have come from somewhere else, likely with a common origin. The most probable source of this, logically, is the Valdivian culture, which had just disappeared from their homeland in Ecuador. So, it would appear that the elite of the Valdivians migrated as missionaries along their previously established trade routes, mostly by sea, to all corners of America.
One of the early “World-ages,” possibly the Third World of the Mesoamerican and Andean history, could have started with the arrival of the Valdivian astronomers, who could have named themselves as the deities Wiracocha, also known as Kukulkan or Quetzelquatl in Mexico, influencing the Mocaya culture (3500 BP) and thus initiating the 300 years later Olmec civilization (3200 BP). Upon their arrival in Peru, they’d have concurrently influenced the Sechín culture (3500 BP) and thus initiated the Chavín civilization (3200 BP). In Colombia, the same would have occurred with the Tierra Adentro and Augustinian cultures, among other interrelated cultures and civilizations, which, to the present day, share similar myths and icons. Comparing ceramic figures and graphics of all American cultures, it also becomes apparent that all these cultures appear to have been in continuous contact through trade, common religions, and social structures up until the arrival of the Spaniards. In this perspective, the American continent was populated until the 16th century by complex and interrelated civilizations, much like the Old World during the same periods of time.
The famous Mexican archeologist Román Piña Chan had already proposed in 1984 that the origin of the Olmecs must have been from Valdivia.
The famous Peruvian archeologist Federico Kaufmann Doig also has suggested the same, but also that the Valdivians started the Chavin civilization in the highlands of Peru.
The fanged jaguar found in many cultures of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico ia clear example that all the cultures and civilizations of America shared a common religion, which had its roots with the Valdivians.
To upgrade a culture to a civilization the criteria has been used that this culture had the ability to adjust to its environment and to develop adequate arts, technology, script, and social relationships.
The Valdivians are almost unknown in universal history. You have seen in this lecture the incredible knowledge they had in astronomy, agriculture, ceramics, commerce, literacy which lasted over three thousand years and was introduced thereafter to all of America. At the terminal phase of the Valdivians I estimate a population of two to three million people. Clearly the Valdivia meet the criterion to be ranked as a civilization, where I propose in this Expo in Shanghai to consider elevating the Valdivia as such.
The Valdivia pictographic writing symbols were used intensively during the Inca Empire 2000 years later. These symbols are known as Tocapus.
To build our future, we have to start with the present. To understand our present, we have to understand the foundations on which the present is built. Hence, to build our future upon ideals, such as world peace, religious unification, global identity, and sustainable growth, it is fundamental to have a full understanding of the roots of civilization. Once we understand what bound men together in ancient times, we can pave the way to bind men together once again. These roots are hard to find, because most of the elements have vanished with time. Only symbols engraved on stone and ceramics represent the clues required for this quest. These symbols apparently were once universal; therefore, the efforts for their discovery can be concentrated on one site, like the recent discovery of the Valdivian temple at the Equator—a site that is inextricably linked to the successive generations of all indigenous American civilizations. It is imperative to declare this area a world patrimony site and undertake exhaustive archeological investigations. We need to learn more about this people. They have a lot to teach us still.
Fortunately, several actions have already been undertaken to use the Valdivian symbols to strengthen the identity of the indigenous people of Ecuador. I was lucky to have been contracted by the Ecuadorian government to design the Ecuador pavilion for the Universal Fair 2000 in Hanover, Germany.
Over a surface of 500 square meters, a three dimensional structure made of bamboo was designed based on three Valdivian cosmograms: the squared cross with the four corners for the floor plan, and the Milky Way Cross combined with the solsticial Cross and the Four Arrowing Stars to for the ceiling, symbolizing the Andean planetarium. A central pyramid and four inverted pyramids suspended this entire structure.
My most recent project involving this is the future Temple of Amerindian Symbols, which is to be located at the tourist centre situated on the Equator, just north of Quito.
This Temple will house the archeological and anthropologic collection of the Charles Hirtz Foundation. The center’s mandate is to investigate the pre-Hispanic roots of America as they are represented in the art, iconography, and symbology of its early cultures and civilizations.
The floor plan of the museum is the squared cross in two dimensions and the stepped pyramid in both three dimensions.
The squared cross is probably the most sophisticated and complete symbol of all. By integrating the female square of celestial earth with the male cross of the four cardinal directions, we obtain across with ascending steps to the upper world of the gods and descending steps to the world of the ancestors.
The squared cross has been used in ancestral times for their agricultural calendar as well as for the hours of the day in the Tzotzil conception of the universe in Mexico
Several architects and scientists have tried to interpret the geographic layout of the Inca Empire and the layout of pre-colonial cities in the pattern of the squared cross.
The squared cross in three dimensions is the stepped pyramid found in various civilizations of America.
In anticipation of the museum’s construction, the Foundation is looking for parties that are interested in touring portions of the collection and its interpretations within international exhibits. These efforts will bring attention to tribes and cultures of America to find their forgotten roots, which will in turn help them, find their true identities towards progress of their people, their nation, and the American continent.
I’d like to thank everyone for coming today to learn about the fascinating history of the Valdivians, and by extension, most indigenous civilizations of the Americas. There is a long way to go in the research, and I’ve definetely introduced some new concepts for many of you, but it is only with an open mind that is receptive to the lessons of history and the words of our ancestors that we will be able to learn from them and discover our true roots.
The profecy of the Maya where we will enter into a new age of enlightment in the December solstice of the year 2010 is based on calenders and astronomic concepts which aparently had its original source with the Valdivias. To further understand more about this prophesy, it is time to study in-depth the Valdivian civilization.