• Environment and Geography

    The Manta culture extended along the Ecuadoran coast from the island of La Puná at the Gulf of Guayaquil to just north of Caráquez Bay. The climate here is relatively dry and the landscape semi-arid, with rain just three or four months of the year.

  • Economy and Technology

    The manteños (Manta people) sustained themselves mainly by agriculture, producing a wide range of edible vegetables such as yuca, corn, peanuts, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, cocoa, chilies, pineapple, avocado, and different kinds of squash. They also grew tobacco and cotton. They hunted wild game such as deer and kept herds of llamas and ducks for meat. They were skillful navigators, which allowed them to take advantage of marine resources, including some that they used to make objects such as trumpets (from snail shells), ornaments (from mother of pearl), containers and other items. Their watercraft were complex affairs, with multiple rudders that made them highly maneuverable. According to Spanish chroniclers, these groups were mainly traders who traveled great distances on land and sea to exchange their goods.

  • Art

    Manta ceramics typically have a smoky, grayish-black color with a highly burnished finish. The pieces were modeled by hand or with molds and were decorated with incisions, excisions and pastillaje (clay appliqués). They used these techniques to produce anthropomorphic and zoomorphic forms, especially male and female statues, which were either nude or were dressed in traditional attire. They were also expert metalworkers, skilled in creating embossed and hammered silver and gold objects. Particularly notable were their beads, earrings, nose rings, and masks, among other metal items. The Manta people also were very skillful stoneworkers, making large carved stone chairs, flat stelas, and sculptures in the form of birds and other animals. They also are known for making “manteños”, statues of high-ranking individuals wearing complex headdresses, ear coverings and nose ornaments and seated on a stool. These were modeled in clay and were often very large.

  • Social Organization

    The Manta are thought to have lived in different groups with a certain degree of social stratification based on economic activity and special skills, each led by an elder.

  • Religion and Funerary Practices

    The Manta people worshipped different animals that they considered sacred: serpents, jaguars or pumas, deer, lizards, black buck and possums. They also revered a goddess named Umiña, who took the form of an emerald. To venerate these deities they made offerings of precious stones and sacrificed animals and people.
    The Manta people buried their dead in individual and collective graves and built burial mounds on them. Social distinctions can be noted in the quantity of grave goods that accompanied the dead. A few tombs attributed to the Manta culture have side chambers, which suggests that they held individuals of high rank.

  • Settlement Pattern

    Around 500 CE, the smaller Manta clans began to join together to form larger groups, and by 1500 CE these people were living in extensive, semi-urban centers that housed a significant population. Many of these settlements were seaports and fishing centers as well. Their houses were built on stone foundations and were made of wood with grass or palm leaf roofs.

  • History

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  • Relations with other cultures

    The Manta culture has been identified with groups that the Spanish chroniclers called the “Huancavilcas”. They also maintained close ties with the Tumbes people and near the end of the pre-Hispanic age they were subsumed into the Inka Empire.