Vase with monkey form

The Chorrera culture inhabited the area that is now the southern coast of Ecuador, covering parts of Guayas, Manabí, and Esmeraldas provinces and extending throughout the basin of the Guayas River and its tributaries. These rivers provided the Chorrera with both a supply of resources and a transport route.

This culture produced highly polished ceramics with an almost mirror-like sheen, decorating them with red, black, smoked, and yellowish-white designs, separated with dots and incisions. These negatively-painted pieces had an iridescent finish. Their vessels have realistic, life-like representations of animals, plants, fruit, buildings, and human figures. The human figures are represented in round, voluminous shapes, with headdresses or turbans on their heads, which may have been a symbol of status in Chorrera society. Many of their ceramic forms were inherited from the earlier Machalilla culture, but new forms also were made, including the whistle bottle, which makes a sound when air is blown over the neck or when the liquid inside is swirled around. Small, smooth, solid ceramic figures have also been ascribed to this culture, as well as larger hollow figures with asymmetrical decorations.

The people probably lived in relatively small groups of 100 to 200 individuals related by kinship or reciprocity. People specialized in different tasks such as fishing, farming, religious duties, and healing. The restricted use of earpieces and the presence of particular types of ceramic offerings in certain grave sites and not others, suggests a society with different social ranks.

Little is known about the rituals of the Chorrera culture, although it has been established that coca-chewing played an important role, as containers have been found that were used for storing llipta, an alkaline substance that was mixed with the coca leaf.

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