Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Northern Andes, 1000 B.C.–1 A.D.

Early Gulf of Urabá and Malambo cultures, 1000 b.c.–1 a.d.
Early Calima (Ilama) cultures, 1000 b.c.–1 a.d.
Malagana cultures, 300 b.c.–300 a.d.
Early Tolima cultures, 200 b.c.–500 a.d.
Early San Agustín cultures, 1000–200 b.c.
Middle San Agustán cultures, 200 b.c.–500 a.d.
Tolita/Tumaco cultures, 400 b.c.–400 a.d.
Jama Coaque/Bahía cultures, 200 b.c.–600 a.d.
Chorrera cultures, 1100–300 b.c.


Encompasses present-day Colombia and Ecuador

Permanently settled villages, primarily along the Ecuadoran coast and in the northern lowlands of Colombia, grow in number and size. Cultivation of maize, probably introduced from Mesoamerica, is established. Coastal villages in Ecuador trade products such as spondylus shell for obsidian (volcanic glass used for tools) and other materials with highland communities and areas to the south.

In the second half of the period, group differentiation begins; territorial boundaries are established and communities develop unique traits based on environment and population. Hierarchic social structure with complex class and status distinctions evolves regionally. Significant technological advances are made in ceramics and metallurgy. New vessel forms and decorative techniques develop. Toward the end of the period, metallurgy, using gold and copper, is practiced in northern coastal Ecuador and southwestern Colombia; impressive ornaments for the elite are made in a variety of sophisticated techniques.

  • • ca. 1000 B.C. In the Sinú River area of northwestern Colombia, people settle permanently in small villages and engage in the cultivation of manioc (yucca). Ceramics are incised, punched, and stamped before firing at the site of Momil; simple solid animal and human figurines have rough, unslipped surfaces.

  • • ca. 900 B.C. The Narrío people of the southern Ecuadorian highlands carve small anthropomorphic figures of spondylus shell. Known by current Quechua inhabitants as ancestors (rucuyaya), the figures have deeply drilled eyes and are thought of as votive offerings for the dead.

  • • ca. 800 B.C. Chorrera ceramic vessels and sculptures reach new heights in the art of ceramic making. Realistically modeled animal and human figures are often made as bottles with single spouts and strap handles; many function as whistling jars. Surfaces are slipped in red, cream, and black, and frequently outlined by incision; iridescent and resist patterning is also extensively used.

  • • ca. 700 B.C. The ceramic vessels of the Ilama people of southwestern Colombia depict human figures and a wide range of local fauna. Known locally as alcarazas, the bottles have flaring spouts and globular chambers that are frequently joined by a strap handle.

  • • ca. 600 B.C. Manioc flour is prepared on flat griddles at the site of Malambo near the mouth of the Cauca River on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

  • • ca. 500 B.C. Controlling the important trade of spondylus shell from its source in Ecuador, Cerro Narrío is a powerful center with an extensive commercial network.

  • • ca. 400 B.C. Lifesize masks of hammered gold worked in repoussé are buried in the tombs of leaders by the Ilama people of the upper Calima River of southwest Colombia. Many masks have perforated eyes and mouths and could have been worn in life.

  • • ca. 400 B.C. The island site of La Tolita on Ecuador's Esmeraldas coast expands. Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines and masks in ceramic and carved shell, bone, and stone are thought to have been used in community rituals.

  • • ca. 350 B.C. Metals are being worked on the coast of northern Ecuador. While gold comes from alluvial deposits, copper is probably traded from the highlands in exchange for sea products, primarily spondylus shell.

  • • ca. 300 B.C. Molds for the production of large numbers of ceramic figurines are used in the Esmeraldas Province of northern Ecuador. Made of a gray, sandy clay by the peoples of La Tolita, the heads of human figures depict cranial deformation. The figures wear nose, ear, and neck ornaments.

  • • ca. 200 B.C. In the rich cemetery at Malagana near the modern town of Palmira in Colombia's Cauca Valley, the elite are buried in full sets of regalia made of gold and semi-precious stones. Grand diadems, pectorals, and arm and leg ornaments with repoussé decoration adorn the dead. Hundreds of gold necklace beads in myriad forms that include birds, insects, and human figures are worn. Many are made by the lost-wax casting technique.

  • • ca. 150 B.C. The Tolita/Tumaco peoples living in the area now at the border between Ecuador and Colombia bury their dead in artificial mounds, called tolas.

  • • ca. 100 B.C. Terraced platform mounds measuring approximately 530 by 150 feet at the base are built by Bahía people at Manta on the central coast of Ecuador's Manabí Province. It is probably an important ceremonial site.

  • • ca. 100 B.C. Flat and roller seals and spindle whorls made of ceramic are produced in quantity by the Jama Coaque peoples of coastal Ecuador. Ornamented with diverse images, from abstract geometric designs to human and animal patterns, they are taken as evidence of a textile tradition.