A couple of weekends ago, we headed out on a mission to explore La Florida Archeology Museum. This pre-Columbian burial ground sits in the middle of an average Quiteño neighborhood. On our way up the hillside to see this little treasure, we passed lines of laundry gently blowing in the wind and the obligatory Saturday soccer game. In fact, we were beginning to wonder if we would find a museum at all! Then, all of a sudden, we noticed a tiny building with a sign proclaiming it to be Museo del Sitio de La Florida.

La Florida Archeology Museum

The well-designed museum are small, making this a fairly quick visit. It’s a perfect place for small group tour. On the other hand, its not so great for a bus or large group.

Additionally, a personal tour guide explains everything. However, be warned that the day we visited, only Spanish-speaking guides were available. If you need an English-speaking guide, use the email below to contact the museum staff a day or two before your visit.

The Actual Archeology Dig

Our guide showed us the pits where archeologists found ancient burial sites. These pits are very deep. It’s impossible to see the bottom! Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the green fronds of damp-loving ferns growing from the sides of the pit walls.

Burial Pits; La Florida Archeology Site, Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

2020 Update: After the 2016 earthquake, scientists found cracks in the excavated grave sites. With fears that the excavations might cave in on themselves, they made the decision to refill them. Today, it is not possible to look into their depths. 

The Quitu Culture

Our guide told us that at the deepest levels, scientists found an ancient burial site dating back to 200-400 BCE. At this time, the Quitu culture ruled the region. Unfortunately, little is known about this culture. Therefore, the graves at the Florida archeology dig are important in that they provide insight into an era that is difficult to study. Fortunately, these burials were so deep that grave robbers never disturbed the remains or artifacts.

The curators designed a sample pit to show what they found. On display are several bodies curled in a fetal position, some obviously of higher rank in the center surrounded by those of less importance. Belongings including pottery, jewelry, musical instruments, and clothing were found, implying that these items would be needed in the afterlife. Furthermore, some of these items were made of Spondylus shells. This fact speaks to an active trade route between the Quitu and tribes living on the coast. Scientists continue to study the Quitu culture in an attempt to better understand the history erased by both the Incan and Spanish conquests.

Reconstruction of the burial of a high ranking family; Florida Museum, Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake
Reconstruction of the burial of a high ranking family; Florida Museum, Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

The Small But Beautifully Arranged Museum

After our guided tour of the actual dig, we entered a small, one room museum with several excellent samples of beaded clothing, pottery, metalwork, and cloth. Some of these pieces are absolutely stunning. It is rare that a small museum in Ecuador is able to keep its most precious finds on site. That make La Florida Museum even more special.

A sample of the pottery found at the Florida site; Quito, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

After our tour, we wanted to see everything again! We asked if we could walk around on our own. It wasn’t a problem. In fact, I think our guide was pleased that we wanted to explore a little more.

All in all, we passed about an hour here. I really enjoyed photographing the excellent examples of beaded, shell clothing. The mannequins had a life-like feel that added to the allure of the museum exhibit. These photos hardly show enough detail. I highly recommend that archeology lovers of all kinds visit this small, little-known museum in Quito.

Front side of a beaded, shell poncho; La Florida Museum | ©Angela Drake
Reverse side of a beaded, shell poncho; La Florida Museum | ©Angela Drake

Information for Your Visit

This is a museum that is easy to visit on your way to another activity, especially as it is just off the main ring road Mariscal Sucre.

If you decided to visit via taxi, make sure to ask them to wait while you look. Finding a taxi back in this part of Quito is sure to be a struggle. Paying your taxi driver a little more to wait won’t add much to the cost of the experience; the museum itself is free.

  • Hours: Wednesday through Sunday; 09:00 a 17:00.
  • Address: Calle Antonio Costa, between Román y Fernando Corral (in the San Vicente Neighborhood), North Quito.
  • Contact: 02 380 30 43 /02 224 23 13; lafloridareservas@gmail.com

This article was originally posted on February 12, 2014. We have corrected grammar, changed the format, and added updates to include modifications at the museum itself.

La Florida Archeology Museum