Although long famous for its antiquities-notably intricate goldwork, elaborate pottery, and earthen mounds-the Santiago-Cayapas region of coastal Ecuador has been relatively neglected from the standpoint of scientific archaeology. Until recently, no sound chronology was available, and even the approximate age of the region's most impressive monument, the large and much-looted site of La Tolita, remained in doubt. Building on evidence obtained during the last decade, this book documents an eventful prehistory for Santiago-Cayapas that spans three millennia. A highlight of this prehistory was the reign of La Tolita as a regional center from 200 B.C. to A.D. 350. Archaeological data from La Tolita's hinterland indicate a complex and changing social landscape in which La Tolita's hegemony was never absolute nor uncontested. Abundantly illustrated and written in a crisp, witty, and occasionally irreverent style, Traces Behind the Esmeraldas Shore will stimulate debate and rankle interpretive conventions about those social formations that archaeologists gloss as 'chiefdoms.'