People probably first reached Ecuador by boat, about 13,000 BC. They were coming down the Pacific Coast from North America. These people settled in river valleys along the coast. They hunted and gathered their food, some on land but mostly by fishing in the ocean. About the same time as people in Asia and Africa, they started farming.
Around 8000 BC, they started farming squash. By 7000 BC they were growing gourds to use as cups and maybe as floats for fishing nets. By 6000 BC these people had also gotten corn from their neighbors in Mexico. They buried their dead all together in two big cemeteries. About 5000 BC, they domesticated guinea pigs for their meat. Around the same time, they started to grow their own tobacco instead of picking wild tobacco.
Around 4500 BC, these people left the area – nobody knows why – and then they came back about a thousand years later, about 3500 BC. That was just as the Norte Chico people were getting settled to their south. We call this second settlement the Valdivia culture. Like the Brazilian fishing people on the Atlantic coast, the Valdivia people used pottery, and like them, they lived partly from farming and partly from fishing.
Like the earlier Ecuadorean people, they grew corn and squash and tobacco. But the Valdivian people also grew chili peppers, beans, and cotton. They used the cotton to make fishing nets and also clothing. Like the Norte Chico, they hung out in circular plazas.
Around 1800 BC, something bad seems to have happened along the Pacific coast of South America. We don’t know what it was, but both the Valdivian and the Norte Chico people moved away from their homes.