A few weeks ago, as we were driving back to Quito from Tabacundo, we decided to stop at some pyramids close to Guayllabamba that I'd never heard of before. It was quite the drive up that took us to a steep and empty parking lot next to what I thought was just a large hilly and also steep field full of llamas.
As we paid the $0.50 ticket, and hurried to catch the other couple who had just gone in with the only tour guide who seemed to be there, I began to realize that these "pyramids" were nowhere to be seen.
As our tour guide began to explain everything, we finally understood that the 15 pyramids at the archaeological site were the hills I was seeing covered in grass. Then it all clicked. Each pyramid had a long narrow ramp leading to the rectangular base.
It turns out they were built by the Quitu-Cara's (the native people of some areas of the Andes), and were inhabited in a time frame anywhere from 500AD to 1500AD (prior to the Inca conquest). Is is believed by the scientists who have studied the site that the whole area was used for astronomical and ceremonial purposes.
One pyramid was partially uncovered on the side, for studies done on the material and structure used. Nine of the pyramids are oriented north to south, one of them hits the marks exactly.
One of the pyramids ramps' was split in two by diverting a stream many years ago in order to understand they way they were built, leaving the layered structure and composition of the structure uncovered. We even found a small exposed piece of original pottery (!!).
We then climbed up the side of another pyramid, to view the uncovered top that's protected with a tin roof to prevent erosion. On the top were two circular solar calendars to know when solstices would occur and know when to plant their crops. In addition, there's around 20 funeral mounds in the area, some of which were unfortunately excavated by thieves in the past.
The tour guide then proceeded to call the pack of llamas that were grazing on the hill, to eat salt from her hand. They literally ran down the hill in search of their treat!
Students from the University of Texas were the last ones to perform studies at the site using laser technology in order to not have to dig and harm the structures. According to our guide, Ecuador's lack of funding for projects like these is the reason why there is no more information on these pyramids.
Anyhow, the two hour long walk and tour was pretty fun. So was the view! We were lucky it didn't rain on us although we didn't escape the Ecuadorian cloudy-day sunburn. But this is definitely more than just a pretty place to take photos - I learned a whole lot of history!