Pyramids of Cochasqui, Ecuador (near Quito)

In 1979, the pyramids of Cochasqui were declared a Cultural Patrimony of Mankind.

The pyramids of Cochasqui are considered the most important archaeological site in the Northern Andes of Ecuador.

Cochasquí is made up of 15 truncate pyramids and about 20 dispersed funeral knolls, all of which are enclosed in a 83,9 hectares area.

Our guide Virgilio explains the history of the site.
The history of Cochasquí goes back from year 950 AD to the year 1550 AD, with two well differentiated periods defined by the type of pottery found by archealogists. The first period, Cochasquí I is characterized by the vasija zapatiforme (shoe shape pot), while, in Cochasquí II, the typical ceramic figures discovered were vasija tripode and the ánfora de fondo puntiagudo (amphora of pointed bottom).

The complex of pyramids and funeral mounds found at Cochasquí is a tangible testimony of a past culture and of pre-Hispanic architecture.

The pyramids consist of numerous large earthen platforms with long ramps.

The remarkable panoramic view from the site has led archaeologists to assume that Cochasqui was built for strategic purposes.
Several hypotheses have been formulated in order to explain the nature and purpose of the monumental complex comprising Cochasqui:
It was a ceremonial-ritual center
It was a home compound center for native elites (caciques)
It was an astronomical center of observation.

Llamas roam the Cochasqui site as part of a reproduction project of the creature in an effort to continue the breeding of this animal that is so inherently a part of early Andean life.

Pyramid with protective covering.

Virgilio uses a model to explain:
Built at 3100 meters by the Cara people around 900 AD, the site's fifteen flat-topped pyramids were constructed from blocks of compressed volcanic soil (cangahua), now coated in grass, at the base of Mount Fuya Fuya. Long ramps lead up to most of the pyramids, which were leveled off to accommodate wooden structures that have long since rotted away.

The hilltop pyramid, which had a 360 degree view of its surroundings, was a kind of observatory. Excavations have revealed the remnants of circular platforms, thought to be calendars of the sun and moon. Holes drilled nearby probably held pillars that would have cast shadows over the calendars during the equinoxes and solstices, and the site is also aligned with the summit of Cayambe volcano, over 30km away, and the Puntiachil site, another ancient monument used for gauging celestial movements.

Protective covering on one of the excavated sites.

Llamas roam freely throughout the archaeological site.

Susie enjoys posing with the llamas.

More protective coverings on excavated places.

Side view of an unexcavated pyramid.

Pyramid stones (under covering)

Top of pyramid (excavated), showing alignment grooves, which were filled with water to reflect solar and lunar cycles. Also, they were used to reflect the night sky.
Cochasqui is located near the equator and thus allows for a more accurate solar calender or observatory. Many of the Andean tribes placed high importance on following the cycles of the sun. At Cochasqui you can clearly see a solar and lunar calender laid out on top of one of the pyramids. There are holes where pieces of stone were placed and long channels where water was probably added to aid the observation.

The pyramids of Cochasqui are most frequently visited during the solar soltices and equinoxes, when local people gather to celebrate the passage of the sun. The solar seasons also indicate the time of sowing and harvesting for the locals.

The modern Cochasqui complex is an organic structure striving to diffuse scientific knowledge and promote anthropological tourism. Underlying these efforts is the motivation to conserve and impel an Ecuadorian national identity. The caretakers of the complex also execute projects of socio-economic development for the people of the region, most of whom live a subsistence existence.

Thatched bridge.

Crossing the bridge.

Expansive view of pyramids and mountain range in the background.

Susie and Virgilio walk on the ancient trade route at Cochasqui (original road)

There is a botanical garden specializing in Andean plants with medicinal purposes.

Potatoes, corn, beans and quinua are the essential nutrients for the inhabitants of this part of the world.

Chulco plant.

Medicinal plants.

Guinea pigs (cuy).

Guinea pig hut.

Virgilio finds a special plant for Susie, to open up her nasal passages.

The Cross of the Four Directions. Virgilio explains the solstices and equinoxes with the aid of the four-directional cross.
There is a mystical aura to this place located high in a barren Andean plateau and directly under the equatorial path of the sun. This mysticism comes from the ancient history of a people whose past is represented in the form of the pyramids whose shapes eerily penetrate the collective conscious of the observer. In addition, the vast and unrelenting passage of time, is represented here by the surrounding and watchful Andes and the vegetation coverage of the pyramids. The pyramids hint at our own individual and cultural transience and the immortality of natural history, of which human history is just a part.

Posing with Virgilio and the four-directional cross.

Museum exhibiting artifacts recovered from the site

Central tree pole of the museum building

Tools in the museum.

Wall display.

Wall display.

Model of Cochasqui village.

Central tree pole and roof support.

Tucked away behind the ruins are two reconstructions of ancient Cara houses, circular structures with thatched-grass roofs built around a living tree – almost identical to those in which a few indígenas still live.

Legend of Cochasqui & Treasure of Atahualpa. Copy obtained from our driver's assistant.

Link to Cochasqui Pyramids on the Web